So a couple weeks ago I wrote about rejection. This week I'm writing about...non-rejection.
What? Huh? What the heck is that? Honey let me tell you, only one of the most important things I've stumbled on since my days on Earth. It's like this permanent hall pass in the hallways of life to be 100% yourself. No questions asked.
My path to the idea of not rejecting parts of myself has been LONNNNNGGGG. Many people who know me now find it hard to image I'd ever be anything other than myself. But the truth is, on the inside, for years I practiced many ascetic practices that I believed were only in service of the Divine, but in reality, were also strangely in service of reminding me of just how much more work had to be done. How much more fixing was needed. How many pieces were not in alignment. How that super emotional side of me was just not very spiritual.
A come to Jesus moment...many of us in the self-help world are really hanging out in the fix-it world. A world where self hate and judgement and criticism seethe underneath the surface of beautiful intentions.
In a recent self-care post I wrote, I shared how my self care for so long was of super human proportions. But really, that's what's been a part of my spiritual path for so long. My heroes like the Buddha in my mind were in fact...super human. But over time, I discovered that those very human parts of myself, my intense emotions, my quirks, my moments of getting triggered, would all become that much sharper, poking in my side, if I tried to push them out, or if I essentially "numbed" out to them...then I basically experienced...nothing!
I started thinking wait a minute. This whole get rid of the human experience thing isn't working. The humanness in the Marci is well...still in the Marci. I started seeing if instead of rejecting the human parts of myself...in essence needing them to change...if I let them be...what would happen. One of the greatest moments of seeing this teaching was the one time in my life I had insomnia. Boy was I convinced I might die. Not getting sleep is maddening. I kept trying to fix it time and time and time again. I tried everything I could think of in my toolbox. And then, one Friday evening, I sat on my meditation cushion and in a complete moment of letting go, I really handed over the problem to the Universe and said. Ok. If this is my new reality and suddenly I don't need sleep. You got it. If I'm going to die soon. Ok. Whatever this is, I'm here. I'm ready. No problem. That was it. There was no longer a problem. And later that night, without any effort at all...I slept like a baby. Because I finally stopped rejecting my reality.
Now I want to share a very personal story with you. Some of you know it, many of you don't. For years, I was a practicing Orthodox Muslim. My dream was to become a scholar. A theologian. I wore a headscarf faithfully. Many people believed I made the decision because I was married to an Egyptian, but it couldn't be further from the truth. I was totally consumed by my love, my pursuit, for the Divine. And I wanted to wrap myself in that love every moment. In my clothing. In my doing. In my way of being. Everything.
It started out as a beautiful love affair. My husband at the time even joked that he felt like I was having an affair with God. My attention was consumed in prayer, reflection, reading, sitting at the feet of any and every scholar I respected and read from. I was drinking from a firehose of Love willingly. And then something happened. I don't know when, but eventually something switched. This practice of Love became a consuming practice of limitation. Self hatred. All the rules I was following suddenly felt like they were strangling me. The prayers felt heavy as all I desired to do was sit in silence and Be with God. I felt consumed by the fires of devotion that the likes of Rabia Al Adawiyya who spoke about the limitations that seeking Heaven can create to entering to the Doorway we seek. My practice became my obstacle.
I was feeling it. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I was fighting myself inside. A radically free spirited soul at odds with a rigid, cold, rule keeper. Like I was squeezing myself from the inside out. And it was totally self created. A prison of my own mind. And yet, I couldn't see any way out. in my mind, everything I was suddenly feeling strangled by was in fact the "right" way. And the human parts of me that were yearning to come out, like the woman who danced freely in the streets to music. The girl who's style was always to the beat of her own drum...pink pants...yellow shirt...purple shoes...why not?! The Wholeness of me was yearning to be. I just yearned to be who I was, but felt guilty about it all at the same time. So I tried over and over and over again to turn different parts of myself out. To extinguish pieces of my flame.
I've seen this story time and time again in every single spiritual circle I've ever spent time in. And I've spent time in a lot of them. The path that's meant to free us starts to carry the wind in our sails, and then when it's time to leave it behind, we become attached. We cling. We tie ourselves up with it and wonder why we can't breathe. Why we aren't free. And why we feel further from what we seek than ever before.
So when it came to the realization that it was time to shed practices that had carried me for so long for the next steps in my journey of Union with the Divine, I was petrified. I finally had understood something so profound in myself, in my practice, that I was scared no one could ever understand. I was convinced I'd be judged. I was. I'd be seen as a heresy. I was. I'd be seen as the one that went astray. I was. When I knew, with every ounce of conviction in my heart, that I was closer to that which I had been seeking than ever before.
So non-rejection. Fast forward to the weekend I'm sitting with Anam Thubten again. For several years now I started playing with this idea of embracing the human side of me. Of seeing what happened if I no longer had a problem with every aspect of my personality. Every quirk. If I no longer had to "be" and "act" and "think" and "say" certain things. If I gave myself the same freedom I had as a kid. To be none other than myself.
"The Universe cannot exist without it's imperfections and flaws," he shared. And because suffering is well...inevitable "celebrate and embrace suffering as an important element of our existence rather than rejecting it." In fact, he saw suffering as the doorway to growth. Without it, we go nowhere.
Trying to escape suffering...the human nature of our existence...will never allow us to find total freedom he explained. And the best part...total freedom is not a total transcendence of pain and suffering. The path to this amazing amount of freedom I believe we are all seeking he called the path of non-rejection. An invitation to not rejection anything. Our bodies. Our psyche. Our imperfections. Our shadows. We don't have to reject them. There's nothing wrong. We just have to be aware of them without a trace. And in fact, what most of us do is become aware of what we see and then have quite a few imprints left behind. Stories about what we become aware of and how it must change. What we must fix. Which of course is really just rejecting ourselves.
This path of non-rejection is much like what Tara Brach calls radical acceptance. The radical choice to completely accept who we are. To bring in the element of compassion that was missing for so long in my ever mindful practice. Because ironically, when we don't need to change anything. When we have compassion for the shadow parts of ourselves...they in fact...change. But when we reject them, they become hardened. Freedom therefore, is through the doorway that feels so backwards to walk through.
For this week's Joy Tip Wednesday, I want to invite you to explore non-rejection with yourself.
- Be honest with yourself about what part of yourself you are rejecting. A part of your psyche? A body part? A way of talking? Being? Choose one specific thing to make this manageable.
- Choose to love all over it. Be aware of it, without it being a problem. Without a story. Bring some softness of compassion. Like you do with your favorite dog who chews your shoes but you can help but hug when you look into those big brown eyes. Or your partner who left the coffee mug on the counter again and you want to smother with kisses. Be like that...with yourself.
- If you find this difficult, ask yourself, would I be this hard on a dear friend? Would I criticize a friend for their nose? For their sensitivities? For their bluntness? I always find that this puts things into perspective. Because I'd never be harsh with others like I often find I am with myself.
This will take practice. Trust me. It does not come natural to most of us. But it's an important muscle to exercise.
It is through multiple dimensions that we come to know them all. We cannot know light with out darkness. We cannot know happiness without sadness. Life isn't one dimensional and neither are we. We'd suffer if there was always sunshine and we couldn't allow our bodies to rest in darkness. And we'd suffer if there was always darkness and couldn't get up and about to move. Embrace the multi-dimensional nature of your being. This unique kaleidoscope is the best gift you can offer. Is the human that others in your life love so dearly.
You're the only one that can sing your unique song of a life...please sing it loudly.