“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
– A Course in Miracles
Our minds are complex and amazing; a million times in a row, relinquishing anxieties to trust for a clearer way to emerge, works just fine. But there are matters one whittles away at for such long periods of time that the process moves into the background, becoming automatic, less unexamined. Then, like a withdrawal from the bank for a gym one doesn’t go to, it can be easy miss a crucial next step and get trapped on the surface level, failing to reexamine, to ask, “Is this (situation, memory, value, desire) even true anymore?” Energies have been eeking out for along time, to ‘somewhere’.
It is important to tell our stories, and to receive deep validation for doing the best we could at the time. There are few sentences more healing than, “It’s not your fault” or, “That must have been so hard for you all that time, to ___ .” Even one person witnessing personal, often secret, struggles, can give disproportionately magical permission for them to heal, which is part of what humans are to one another.
And I understand this because of what it was like to separate from a partner of many years… reliving the whys and wherefores, answering to crowds of imaginary people in my mind. I found it hard to give the two of us as characters much tenderness, categorizing our mistakes as short-sighted and preventable, with an underlying subtext of blame that leaned slightly more his way than mine. I would stop the looping by sheer will until, going along one day I would realize, “When did THAT come back?”
We all want to do better going forward, and to find value in situations we’ve come to know well at such high costs; it is irresistible to come up with a script about it all, and to work that script until shines light on all our best angles. So the first step is self-compassion.
Then what to answer others, for instance my son, when he asked to know more. One hesitates to teach what they are still going through. I began to just describe our way of thinking at the beginning, the plans and visions behind our decisions, the intricate calculations. But also, the values at the core of what we know in retrospect was our expanding too fast. With distance I could see how thoughtful and careful we actually tried to be, banking on the energy of our mutual desires and visions.
I felt… impressed with us, even as I listened to myself describe where we went wrong. And I felt impressed to admit to all those areas. A joyful feeling bubbled up as I described things such as the condition of our house when we bought it – how we put every cent and second in, learning by doing, installing the often complimented kitchen for almost nothing, taking down the horrendous mirrored wall and murals from the 80’s Miami Vice aesthetic. I began to smile a lot.
Eventually, I found myself speaking of us with great affection and compassion, laughing a little. It had been so long since I’d been able to do that. Then I realized: I had forgiven us, without knowing that to be the case. Somewhere along the way there had come softening.
The truth was, is, that I love those two people with their ambitious and energetic dreams. I love their ideals, their well-intended hearts, so deeply. What filled my being was a sense of expansion and, just “Thank You.” “Thank You, Thank You… Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”.
What has happened in my country is complex. Many are facing the reality that blind spots and complacency are sometimes not just shocking, but dangerous. The truly tender-hearted, who may have voted or not voted, who may have stood on one side or another but not taken seriously the threat of latent bigotry that is coming to the surface in the wake of (this) change, will now either close their eyes and pray or open their eyes and pray, and act.
“There are no enlightened persons, only enlightened activity,” said Suzuki Roshi.
This is my mantra, for today.
At the bookstore cafe’, moving through the line, when the feeling of someone noticing me presents itself. Not looking, but I see – he is dressed far too well for the bookstore. I am disheveled. He lingers, asks about the book I’d purchased … a children’s book, delightful, titled Goodnight Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Bedtime Story. I look away, but he draws me back, saying he has a son, 6 years old… wonders whether he might like the same.
(Illustrations in the book are by Sarah Jane Hinder)
Qualities was the key word for the meditative workshop, beginning with “one quality that (you think) describes you.” People around the room gave words like “kind” and “loving” and “creative.” Mine was curious, although after saying so, I thought “inquisitive” would have been more accurate. This was an ice breaker before a time of meditation.
Next we were asked a few deceptively easy questions like, “What makes you happy?” and “What makes you sad?” Again some answers were shared, that blended together.
(what makes me happy? bamboo)
The third question was the one to reach my sweet spot. It was about a figure that has inspired, and the qualities they manifest, one would like to develop. I surprised myself by choosing P, although it is S I consider my ‘heart teacher’. But what sprang to mind was P’s spontaneity, his lack of embarrassment, his overall joyfulness.