When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
(From Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes)
I am not broken. You are not broken. Over the past couple of months I have realized that I do not 100% believe this, and I need to humbly re-examine some unconscious ways in which my beliefs are not living up to their potential.
Judaism teaches that babies are born with a pure soul. Buddhists also teach that we all have an “awakened heart;” a place inside that is cosmically connected and alive. Nature reminds us daily of the miracle of growth and rebirth – with no recriminations for the seed that takes longer to sprout or the tomato that does not ripen. These three teachers are my foundation, and yet somehow I haven’t fully accepted their wisdom.
Part of me does yoga and meditates and is vegetarian and teaches about mindfulness from a place of connectedness and aliveness. However another part of me has been doing all that with an unconscious belief that all this striving will accomplish something good. There is a fine line between “right effort” or “right action” and perfectionism or, as Larry Rosenberg teaches, there is no “spiritual Olympics. When I heard that phrase I joined the others in the room in laughter; yet my laughter was tinged with a bit of recognition that part of me is unconsciously looking for a “gold medal.”
What if I took another step in letting go of this limiting outlook? What if I – and all of us – already have all the “gold medals” we ever could need – in our pulsing hearts and expanding lungs and beautifully connecting brain synapses? What if, exactly as we are right in this moment, all we do is take the next step towards wholeness? Love as well as we are able? Notice our feelings with loving observation and not acerbic judgment?
Many traditions teach that our body is a vessel or a tool – provided for us to do sacred work in this world. We are the image of the divine or the expression of consciousness or the light made manifest. To care for our bodies – with respect, protection, and gratitude – is not supposed to be an action of drudgery or Puritanical restriction. What if the ways in which we move, eat, sleep, hug, cook, comfort, stretch, and bathe emanated from a place of self-love and remembering that we are partners of the divine consciousness? Yes we are imperfect – we make mistakes, act hurtfully, are stubborn and take a long time to change. But imperfection is not the definition of failure…and it definitely is not the definition of un-lovability.
This inner essence is always present; we just aren’t always aligned with it. Sort of like being out of focus in a camera lens….when we click into focus, all the parts are simply there – the ways in which we are skillful and the ways in which we are not. With patience this internal wisdom encourages us to reach towards alignment and focus, willing us to be vulnerable and authentic – and allowing that vulnerability to be the key to growing into our best selves.