Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Between "Dejected" and "Empowered"

I work in the corporate office of a Catholic health care system. Though the Catholic church and I have disagreements in certain areas (and that does challenge me at work), I do really enjoy working for the nuns. One of the perks of working for these particular sisters is the "Daily Reflection" that shows up in everyone's email inbox. I usually just glance over them and go about my work, but one from this week really got me thinking:

This Moment Is as Perfect as It Can Be
Gospel people don't need to hang on to anything. For them, the ego is out of the way. They'll make a difference in the world precisely because they don't need to. They don't need to be first, they don't need to be important, they don't need to be number one. They don't need to be rich, secure, popular, so they can do what God has told them to do. They can be obedient, God can move through them with power. That's why spirituality is always about letting go.
We all occasionally see how incapable we are. I was reminded of this on a muggy July afternoon, sitting at a stoplight in downtown Cincinnati. It seemed interminable. After a few moments, I became mad at everybody around me: the car in front of me, the car behind me, the car on each side of me. I began thinking vicious, unkind things about all kinds of people whom I hadn't seen in months.
Some other part of me asked a question: "Where is this coming from? Richard, you're a spiritual teacher and you're supposed to be wise and you're supposed to be free, but you are so unfree and you are to trapped in yourself that can't even accept a little red light."
The Lord gave me a little mantra that I've used ever since: "This moment is as perfect as it can be." I've had to repeat it many times (and most times not wanting to). This moment is as perfect as it can be. Everything is right here, right now. And if I can't rejoice now, I can't know you at all. Is my joy based on circumstances, or is my joy based on something within that no one can take from me or give to me?
from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction

As I read it, I kept finding myself bouncing between thinking "how pitiful to just accept this moment for what it is and not want to make everything better" and "wow, that's a weight off my shoulders."

I realized that the dejected feeling and pity came from a misreading of the words. I kept reading: "this moment couldn't possibly have been any better," or "this moment is as perfect as it can be... and it certainly isn't perfect... so we can't hope for any better."

I don't believe I'm the only person who experiences this kind of misunderstanding when we try to talk about acceptance. There's a big part of me that believes "acceptance" is often a bad word. It means "giving up" rather than "acknowledging, agreeing, and building upon."

It took me a while to figure out that, for me, the weight I felt lifted off my shoulders was guilt. Guilt for not being perfect... or at least better. Guilt for wanting more than what I really need. Guilt for not always doing everything I can to be the best "child of God" that I can be. Pressure that I constantly put on myself and use to set myself up for failure.

It came to me as I read this that knowing "this moment is as perfect as it can be" is empowering, not depressing. It tells us that we don't need ropes of guilt tying us down or holding us back from trying to do and be what God asks.

[For any fantasy geeks out there who are fans of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series -- I feel a bit like Nynaeve and her experiences with trying to get through her block against being able to use the One Power without being angry. Part of the ability (for women) to use the One Power is to give in to the One Power, to accept what it means and what it is. This feels similar to me.]

No comments: