Not too long after our mother died, my father took my sister and me to the newly opened Disney world. It made sense, go to “the happiest place on earth” to get away from all that sadness. My mother’s dying process was confusing to me. She didn’t want us to remember her sick and feeble so she insisted that her illness be kept a hidden truth. Hidden Truths are like deeply embedded splinters. Eventually they get pushed to the surface for expulsion.
There was promise upon arrival that Disney world was, indeed, the happiest place on earth. Enchantment began from the moment you parked your car. The lots were so big they presented a world of their own. I had never seen a tram before; I didn’t know they existed. So once we boarded and sat down, I was embarrassed and excited to hear that we weren’t even in the park yet – and I was already brimming with happiness.
Finally through those entry gates, I felt like I was walking inside a freshly shaken snow globe. The atmosphere was simply magical. By the time we stumbled upon the Snow White and the Seven Dwarf ride, I was dopey with Disney manufactured happiness.
We drifted through a cheerful courtyard, Snow White singing to a admiring group of birds, but within moments, the cart pushed open two swinging doors and we were immersed in spine chilling darkness. Before us stood the magic mirror declaring the Snow White truth. Suddenly, the cart took a sharp turn and we headed for the backside of the Evil Queen.
As we approached, our cart swung around. Instead of the anticipated face of the queen, the bulging psychotic eyes of her bewitched counterpart appeared. Her blood curdling gaggle frayed my every nerve ending and I spent the rest of the ride buried in my father’s rib cage.
Twenty years later I took my young daughter to Disney on Ice. We were three generations in the family together, sitting in the second tier towards the back of the rink. The stadium was sold out. The show began as magnificently and magically as expected –until suddenly the arena went dark.
A sliver of light appeared at the arena entrance and that arrogant evil queen skated onto the ice. I froze up and stopped breathing. I followed her vengeful glide along the parameters. Every cell in my body was brewing with hatred and contempt.
Without warning -and very contrary to my non-combative nature, I jumped up and began booing at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t stop. My inhibited quiet family slapped at my thighs and tried to shut me down but I simply could not stop. I booed louder and raised my fists into the air. The queen actually stopped skating and glared in my direction. I booed even louder at her, unleashing every stored cell of Terrified I had buried in my body.
Evidently, I was not alone.
A child somewhere in that dark stadium joined me. And then another. And another, until the whole stadium was roaring. The queen appeared to be caught in self-assessment: Performance success or failure? Then seemingly at the same moment as I, she realized she had performed to perfection and continued skating. Strangely, I felt as if I’d made a new friend.
The booing intensified, mixed with a bit of cheering. The energy in that stadium had shifted, just as it had for me decades prior when we passed through the swinging double doors – only in reverse. From that cold and contracted emotional darkness brought in by the queen, a warm and expansive sense of delight emerged.
Years later I would use this story whenever I taught yoga. It was especially effective in children’s classes where the concept of tension release and healing was the focus. Living in the moment, enjoying that space in between each breath, liberates our life force and activates our strongest sense of vitality. Our bodies absorb the energy from our experiences and if these experiences become trapped, our energy cannot flow freely.
What I especially loved about my Disney release was that I never saw it coming. I didn’t have to do any work for it to happen. There was no mental deliberation and mustering up of courage. It was a solid, holistic response to the call for self-preservation. The fact that I was joined by a stadium of self-preserving children was a ten-fold bonus. Disney finally delivered me to the happiest place on earth.