The Peace That Broken People Know

pottery

Your wound is like the purposeful flaw in Native American pottery – it’s there to let spirit in. We all need to heal through life. It’s in the healing we connect with spirit. Spirit reaches us through the wound.

I used to believe that addiction was a form of wounding, that we hurt ourselves and others through addiction. That’s true. But it’s also true that the wound was there before the addiction. The addiction was our way of trying to cope with our wounds. At first, it works. Then of course it doesn’t. Things get worse and soon we’re struggling with greater wounds. When we get sober, we find we still need to heal the original wound.

What is that original wound? Does it come simply from being alive on Earth? We don’t know. Over time, we come to be aware that something within us is broken. The cure is our connection with spirit. Many of us discover this simple truth after trying everything else to ease the pain.

Many of us come to feel gratitude for the discomfort that so vividly prompted our attention to healing. This is good. Our spiritual journey begins as we try to heal the wound.

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

When we have a spiritual awakening, it’s natural to ask the question: How do I live now? How does this change my life? Does the internal breakthrough come with external responsibilities?

The simple answer is no, nothing has changed.

The more complicated answer is yes, everything has changed.

The title of this blog comes from William Butler Yeats. In his own spiritual development, it became clear to him that great dreams come with responsibilities. Your response to the world will change as your view of the world evolves. This works both ways. Slip into a dark place, and you will see an unforgiving world that is hurtful. Your actions will follow: hurt people hurt people.

But when your spiritual life expands, you see more and you will begin to understand you are part of everything and everything is part of you. As the small and ever-pressuring self begins to break apart, you will see that your presence itself begins to have a healing effect on those around you.

Dark, constricted vision produces after itself. Light likewise, produces light. As you develop spiritually, you will automatically pull away from hurtful behavior as from a hot fire. You will gravitate toward healing behavior because it is nourishing and feels right.

Detachment from worldly pressures does not mean separation from others. Quite the opposite. It means freedom to do what is lovingly needed. In the dream of a greater, more spiritual existence, you will see where you can be helpful, and it will be your pleasure to serve.

You will see the thorn in the other’s palm, and you will remove it – not because you have new strength to take up this weighty task, but because you will see that it is so easy to do.

Spirit Looking Through My Eyes

As time passes it becomes clear that I am seeing the world as spirit. The “me” looking out through my eyes has changed.

For many years, I invested myself in a world that didn’t seem like spirit at all. I tried to fit into the world, to make my way, to find love and love others, to be a good partner, a caring dad, to learn the workings of the world and help where I could. Those intentions were fine. I cherished them.

But the insecurity of falling short over and over was unbearable. And we cannot help but fall short.

The insecurity brought dread and self-loathing. I tried to sooth those painful feelings with alcohol. It worked for a while, but alcohol only works for a while. Then it quits working. After that, it produces its own dread and self-loathing.

I tried to wrestle peace out of the darkness of a world without spirit. A fool’s errand. There is no peace in darkness. I fell further and further behind in my goal of being a decent person.

Thank heavens a crash came. The crash was inevitable. It was my health. And surprisingly, it came with an overwhelming feeling of relief and a final, “OK, I give up.”

Surrender was all I had left, but I had no idea that surrender was a door, the only door. My surrender was followed quickly by healing. It was surrender and healing, over and over, day after day.

Once I was back on my feet – a bit wobbly – it was clear I had become a different creature. Something else was looking out through my eyes. And the world I saw had become a spiritual place. Now I know that it had been spiritual all along. My eyes were finally seeing the truth.

A friend observed that my spiritual awakening was not intentional. Indeed it was not. It came through a life-threatening health crisis. Nor can I credit myself for my recovery. Recovery came through medical science and sustained sobriety. I can’t even credit myself for the sobriety. When I awoke into this new world, all desire for mind-altering substances was gone.

So I can’t say follow my path. Please don’t. But I can say, the world is a spiritual place to the eyes that look out through me to the world. It’s a spiritual place for you as well.

Watching Love Watching Back

So, who am I? Such a huge question. Who am I and why am I here? When I was a teenager and later as a young adult, these questions were critically important. They meant everything.

Later life, I became surprised by the lightness of the questions. The intensity is completely gone.

These questions were so  mysterious once. Who am I? Why am I here? They were colossal. Existential chaos lived in the unknowing of these weighty considerations. They were the only questions that mattered.

Yet they no longer hold any mystery for me. The answer to these questions are as simple as breathing. I am spirit looking out through the eyes of a human being. While the answer may seem pat, it is true. I have always been with spirit. I always will be. And I am here because love is present.

When I was young, the questions swirled in a dizzy wind of change; change surrounded me every day. Now, the answer to the questions is unchanging. And though the world still seems to change, I know that’s an illusion. Only its appearance changes. The spirit within does not change. That is my truest self.

I have a worldly self – some call it the ego, some call it the false self. It walks and talks and has a personality. It grew up in this world. I remember a moment when I was young – about eight years old – when the idea of who I was moved to the earthly self. At the time, the shift was overwhelming. That feeling of overwhelm happened a number of times over a period of a few weeks. I would suddenly realize I was actually a human being.

That thought – that I’m a real person – was so surprising, so startling, that I would run inside from play, plop myself on my bed and just spin around with this new idea. This extraordinary feeling was physical. My bed seemed to fly around the room. I would think the thought over and over – I am real. It was tantalizing, frightening, and thrilling. It was a new and powerful thought – that I was a person, a distinct human being, and that I was real.

From there I began the dusty trek through the world. My ridiculously dear self had to go through the rough thickets of life – falling short, knowing that my tender core was hopelessly incomplete, raw, and vulnerable. And of course I was drawn to those very souls who could effortlessly penetrate even my strongest defenses. And since hurt people hurt people, I attacked back.

Through all the years, I would get the taste of something greater in life, whether it was young love or early spiritual strivings that made me believe I could walk into heaven intact. Young love was followed by a more mature love where we would negotiate a truce – a pact between two able warriors. But the pressure of the world is unrelenting, and it was only a matter of time before we would take up the emotional weapons – reluctantly, out of necessity, but brutally – and use them on each other.

All the time, my true self was brimming with love but hidden from me, far out of reach. In the world of my true self, no balm was needed for my wounds, nor even for the wounds I had scored against others in my frustration and confusion. For all is healed in the presence in the true self, the Krishna, the Christ within. My true self waited for me in the place where nothing changes, where nothing is real but love. Some call it heaven. It’s the place we came from, where we were born, where all road eventually lead.

What a way to see the world, from the eye of the truest self. The world is gorgeous in spite of its fiery delusions, and it is even more beautiful when we come to see the help we may bring to this rough and eager place we once called home, knowing that our Christ-self looks upon it all and sees nothing but love and offers nothing but healing. In this earthly world, with each person we meet, we can see the Christ within – even if just an ember glowing – and see that this person before us, struggling so hard with life, is actually at home with spirit all the while, watching love watching back.

Healing Through Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an easy virtue to praise. Forgiveness is psychologically healing. Many believe it is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth. That’s all great. But when you are struggling with some very real wrongs that have been perpetrated against you or those you love, forgiveness can seem nearly impossible.

How can you forgive without actually accepting – nearly condoning – the offense or crime? Some say, we should forgive the sinner but not the sin. That thought is nearly worthless in the face of brutality or deep betrayal. Some offenses are so hurtful, so permanently damaging, that forgiveness seems a trite and wholly inappropriate response.

I was in a group recently where forgiveness was discussed. Out of 30 people, about a third insisted there are some wrongs that just can’t be forgiven. Those who rejected forgiveness were emphatic, deeply offended by the thought of forgiving grievous wrongs.

Yet not forgiving means you have to hold bitterness, resentment, and even hate. When you hold these dark emotions, the perpetrator in effect hurts you over and over and over. There’s one simple fact that argues for forgiveness, that makes forgiveness an imperative: forgiveness heals the forgiver.

Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Mandela couldn’t get his 27 years back – the best years, the most fruitful years of a life. Yet if he kept his bitterness and hatred, he would be useless as a man and worthless as a leader

Some say forgive, but don’t forget. That’s not forgiveness. Forgiveness must be unconditional or it is not forgiveness at all.

Forgiveness is a psychologically healthy act. In an article in Unity Magazine, Carla McClellan, quotes psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky saying that forgiveness “is a shift in thinking toward someone who has harmed you. It has nothing to do with reconciliation, forgetting, excusing, or justice. When you are ready, forgiveness is a powerful choice you can make that can lead to greater well-being and relationships. This choice carries with it an intention to heal yourself.”

Even more than a psychologically healthy act, forgiveness is spiritual cleansing. In his book, “Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle,” Colin Tipping explains that ordinary forgiveness is letting bygones be bygones – letting go of the past while still holding onto the idea that something wrong or bad happened. He believes that’s a difficult task and that it usually takes a very long time before we begin to feel the forgiveness.

Instead, he suggests trying “radical forgiveness,” which he describes as a deep commitment to releasing the past. The release is more total since it involves a shift in perception that allows us to see that what happened was actually perfect from a spiritual point of view. It is experienced as a profound insight and can occur in an instant.

Tipping says that radical forgiveness enables us to see the spiritual meaning in any situation. We are able to recognize that life is divinely guided and unfolding for each of us exactly how it needs to unfold for our highest good. We are able to surrender to the flow of life and to learn that, ultimately, there is nothing to forgive.

When we receive this insight, we can let go of being a victim and find peace, even in the most unpleasant memories of what happened. Our hearts open and we are able to experience spiritual oneness with the world.

Forgiveness is necessary to relieve ourselves of the dark and damaging emotions of bitterness, resentment and hate. Those emotions will eat us like cancer. We can – and must – purge these destructive forces with true forgiveness. We can forgive and be healed. When we allow forgiveness, the world changes. The veil of darkness is lifted and we can see we are surrounded by light.