A pledge to keep walking beyond where I have once called home, onto where I am challenged to change, reconcile, surrender, and create in ways I hadn’t imagined.
I love it when I think I finally understand something about my familiar ego’s way of reacting– and feeling like this time, I’ve got it. No more reactivity; I’ll be calm and objective and just curious the next time someone pushes one of my old “buttons.” I’ve really taken another step down the spiritual path this time. But even THAT is me being in control. The ego wins again. And inevitably I do react the next time I hear a racial slur or a differing political or theological opinion or heaven forbid, I am accused of being wrong or foolish or naive.
I wrote about this in my book about the Camino when referencing the spiral staircase analogy; it’s not that the old issues, go away; you meet them again but hopefully with more wisdom, a little further up the staircase. In my Diamond Approach work, the teachers call it “taking another pass” at the issue. I like that too. In fact, I think it’s a better way of thinking about it, primarily because the spiraling up staircase or taking a step down the spiritual path both seem to imply that there is somewhere to get to. Again Meister Eckhart reminds me that “the path cannot be a path of attaining because nothing’s missing. Therefore the path has to be one of becoming detached from what hinders us from realizing it.”
So I take another pass at it each time I get irritated, correct someone from my point of view, roll my eyes with impatience or even listen as if I’m open and paying attention when in fact, I’m making particularly uncompassionate judgments.
But I’ve come to realize that this is okay. “Fundamental to this work is to be where you are,” says Deborah Letofsky, longtime Diamond Approach teacher. Fundamental. Not to reject when I’m reactive, but simply to be with it fully and allow it, seeing what then unfolds. If I’m judging someone, I’m aware of it, rather than digging the pit deeper by judging myself for judging! I let in the possibility of grace.
I’m currently reading a book by a favorite author of mine, Parker Palmer, entitled On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old. In it, he calls these profound moments of grace “jailbreaks.” Which is a perfect understanding of what it is like to live life from the perspective of the all-knowing and so certain ego–prison. But his next line is what made me burst out laughing, and why I am writing this particular blog. He calls himself a “lifelong recidivist”– recidivism being the term for when a person freed from prison, commits another crime and is returned to jail. Yes, that’s how I see myself. A lifelong recidivist, coming back to the same realizations that set me free, only to relapse and start again. And yet, and how lucky I am, without the help of my ego, grace lifts me, carries me, transforms me without me knowing it. And I see I have been changed.
I have been told about grace all my life–that’s one of the benefits of growing up Lutheran, despite it having its own prisons, the foundation of the faith is “we are saved by grace alone, not by works.” Thank you Martin Luther. As the Diamond Approach says in another way, “There’s nothing to do.”
Grace is such a golden, shining, good thing, and yet it is one of the hardest realizations to fully accept. “It’s too good to be true. Really? I must have to do something.” I try to contain it, make contracts with it, consider it rather than accept it. I get released from prison and then back I go, this lifelong recidivist.
And, again. That’s okay. No matter what I do, I am constantly being pulled toward Being. Like water is pulled to the ocean, I am in that river and my only job is to let myself float downstream. Yes, I’ll try to grab onto a rock or swim to shore or try to find bottom with my feet. Lifelong recidivist!
Yet I am loved. That is the sole foundation of grace. And nothing will stop the river. It is fundamental to simply be where I am.