From Self-Betrayal To Self-Love: Steadiness and Gratitude On The Path
Part 2: Transforming Pain into Love
Today is Maha Sivaratri, an annual Hindu celebration in praise of Lord Siva who out of compassion drank poison and in so doing, saved the world. “Om Namah Sivaya!” to all those who honour this festival.
Every year this celebration happens during Lent, when Christians turn their hearts and prayers towards Easter. Though my spiritual teacher was born in the Hindu tradition, I grew up in a Christian home. I went to Sunday school every weekend, said grace at meals and was guided by parents who openly discussed their faith. My father had a daily morning contemplative practice and my grandmother was the first to introduce me to meditation and practiced for over 50 years.
After a year living in India, having left my career as an architect to deepen my understanding of yoga and meditation, though circumstance I ended up working part time as a lay assistant minister (non-ordained) for the church where I was baptized in Montreal. I have felt a close relationship with this spiritual path and have felt very grateful for the guidance I received as a child to be open to spiritual “otherness”, no matter what spiritual path we may choose.
Yet, the whole Judas betraying Jesus thing never really made sense to me. In the Christian story, Jesus was betrayed the night before he was crucified, by one of his closest followers, Judas. So here is this wise master who can perform all sorts of miracles, who so happens to have in his closest entourage a guy that ends up betraying him. How could that be? And what is the supposed Grace in such a betrayal?
Last week, I shared how I watched myself turn myself “black and blue” though hurtful self-talk and by holding onto painful feelings. That incident guided me to contemplate self-love more deeply and has helped me understand more fully how we create our reality.
What has transpired for me, since then, is a feeling of gratitude for the “toxic” people who have come and gone through my life over the years. And no, contrary to many popular “manifesting” manifestos, I am not planning on attracting more people like that into my life by feeling grateful for them. On the contrary, I feel that through gratitude and self-forgiveness, I am letting them go so that they no longer need to come back into my life and mirror back aspects of myself I do not see.
It is like the famous saying: “There but by the Grace of God go I.” We are far more similar than we realize, and all so inter-connected. What I see as painful in another person is potentially something I could do to myself, or maybe even something I am doing to myself or to another. By being witness to another person’s painful energy, I am given a gift: I can see my own shadows more clearly so I can accept them and let them go.
When I recently recorded this “aha” moment in my diary, I wrote the word “toxic” to describe the people that have hurt me in the past. I could feel a part of me want to judge them for being “bad” and “wrong”. But as my pen touched the page, the opposite flowered in my heart. I felt closer to them than I ever had.
Then it came to me: I had a deeper understanding of Judas. His betrayal of Jesus was actually a part of how Jesus fulfilled his life’s work. Through Judas, Jesus transcended into eternal life. Because Judas “told on” Jesus, Jesus was crucified. And because Jesus was crucified, Jesus showed his followers that he was not limited to the body but was beyond. Similarly, on Maha Sivaratri, Siva drank poison and shows us that we are not limited by day and night, that is, time, but that our true nature is beyond all things and is eternal.
What crystallized in my cells in that moment is something that has floated around my thoughts before: there is NO-thing (nothing) that is not part of the greater whole. In other words, everything that happens has a purpose and is part of a greater whole. So how could I but feel gratitude? This whole is me. I am the whole. That other person is also the whole. We are the whole together.
Painful acts by others, and those that I have acted upon myself and others, have brought me face to face with my own shadow, so that I could forgive myself, let resentments go, and transcend into the fullness of love.
By no means does this justify painful acts. But it reminds us that flowers grow out of manure and compost. The lotus, a symbol in the East for enlightenment, blooms in murky waters. I do not believe that pain is a pre-requisite for growth. After all, there are exquisite things that grow hydroponically! But if we meet painful things with openness and humility, they could become fuel for the most powerful expansion experiences we may ever have.
I look forward to sharing more about this “aha” moment next week when I take a look at cultivating self-love.
Until then, be well,