by Greg Hermann
“If we are not transformed by our pain,
we will almost certainly transmit it to those around us, and I am learning that we pass it on to future generations as well.”
Fr. Richard Rohr
Last week, we pondered the frequently spoken suggestion: “look within”. We observed that many of us, in our search for our meaning in life, have been directed to journey within. As we set out on this journey, we found ourselves in the midst of an expanding connection, in a village.
I noticed, in my village, the inhabitants had something in common. We all have experience with pain, or fear, or some crippling trauma. As we engaged in our relationships with each other, we tip toed into a state of vulnerability that laid our crippling experiences in full view of ourselves and each other.
What did I see in you all that made it safe for me to lay open my wounds?
What does that love look like?
Humility – you came to realize that you needed help. In this courageous moment, you met others on this same journey. Yes, fear had crippled you. BUT, others on this same journey welcomed, accepted, and nurtured. Fear eased. Confidence grew. We became part of something.......? You describe what you became part of.
Respect – love looked like respect. It was not judgmental because we all had a similar history. Our trauma has many different faces. Our history had a common voice – a mind that fed us with the voice of shame, condemnation, worthlessness, and on and on. We have come to know this as our ‘monkey mind’. It is a thought pattern that can grab us out of a place of peace and security and, in a moment, hurl us into an instant hell. (Yes, my monkey has little horns on his head). The monkey becomes the object of our attention, focus, agony and fear. The monkey cripples us. Yet, this atmosphere of respect offers us hope. The practice of acts of acceptance and forgiveness of others strengthens our hope.
Courage – action in the face of fear is a new face of love for any of us who have turned to artificial pain killers, or addictive substances and behaviors. Villagers practice courage. None of us is perfect at it. Together, though, we pile up bits and pieces of courage – enough to keep us growing in strength and hope. Together, the village grows.
Let’s look at the monkey for a moment. Sometimes, my monkey appears like Godzilla, huge and overwhelming. Yet there is a practice that begins to shrink the monkey. After all, what is the monkey? He/she is the object of my worst thoughts and fears. He/she can grab attention in a heartbeat and beat us mercilessly.
Our attention! Yes, the monkey grabs our attention - like we have no control.
We have a gift. We have the ‘power’ to manage our own attention. There are many names for this power. I’ll refer to it as meditation. Meditation is a systematic practice of quieting the mind. Here’s the catch: I can’t buy it. I can’t put it in a box to be used at my will. Meditation is a practice. It is a practice of training my attention. It is a practice of directing my attention away from my monkey mind and toward a mind of ‘ease and stability’, toward a mind of rest and peace, toward a mind of beauty and grace. I practice directing my attention to the truth of my divine nature, to the truth of my infinity, to the truth of my purity.
The “P” word: PRACTICE
Relax a bit. Everyone in my village entered one step at a time. Each of us began our journey one footprint at a time. Meditation is a practice that begins one moment at a time. Well? No, that is not quite true. For me, meditation began with my recognition of my need for help, my recognition that I could not take this journey alone. I had to set an intention of accepting your love, courage, humility, respect and vulnerability. This intention continues to expand. Most of all, this intention was one of accepting progress, not perfection. Then, I began to notice, I began to observe – my monkey.
My monkey was not quite so crippling: I could experience periods of balance and stability.
My monkey was not quite so blinding: I was experiencing moments of beauty.
My monkey was not quite so deafening: I was hearing voices of forgiveness and acceptance.
My monkey? Well, my monkey is still present, but does not cripple me. I am learning how to use the crutches of your support. I am accepting your shoulder to lean on. I am inspired by your courage. I am healing from your forgiveness.
Meditation – training my mind to attend to your love, is the practice of accepting a new energy. It is the practice of recognizing the monkey but redirecting my attention to our experience, strength and hope. There is great, healing energy in our nature – divine, infinite, pure. Yup, it is us. We got this.
We got this!