The two biggest hurdles in life, as far as I'm concerned, are acceptance and forgiveness. These are not just words. Not just concepts to toss around and bless as we enter and leave a room, but they can be mammoth libraries filled with loss and grief and our deepest hurts and wounds which we aim to heal and then unfortunately, once we find our footing and our courage, we are often knocked down and hurt all over and must start again and again and again and again.
It is the inverse and quite the same principle (all at once) in Buddhism of how you get to be reborn in each moment and return to your "original goodness."
I cannot stop watching the HBO Documentary "Six By Sondheim." Anyone who knows me well, knows my love of the theatre. And in this documentary, Stephen Sondheim is a skillful architect of the theatre and of song. Not only is Stephen so honest, but he is deeply passionate about the foundation of how he became who he is and he even (and with great ease and delight, mind you) distinguishes between a poet and a lyricist with deep and incisive precision. Of course, I have watched it many times because I love revisiting exquisite moments in NY Theatre history with Glynis Johns and the incomparable Elaine Stritch (believe me, I can go on with the list...). But what keeps bringing me back to this documentary is something else. What brings me back is Stephen's depth of pain and his ability to be so honest about it without apology, but with pure, utterly hopeful vulnerability. His story is heartbreaking and cleansing all at once. And you can see him straddling between the two places. Wow, what a teacher he is!
I am straddling.
Many of us are.
I keep thinking about many things I have heard and learned.
Bonnie Raitt "I can't make you love me if you won't."
Ram Dass "Suffering is the resistance to what is."
Acceptance is the FINAL stage of grief (according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross), therefore, not easy to come by. Preceded by denial, anger, bargaining and depression.
Oscar Hammerstein "By your pupils, you are taught."
I have found that everyone has something to teach me. Every heartbreak has something to teach me. We tend to keep repeating any given "it" until it is truly learned. Sometimes, the learning isn't so difficult. But the sustainability of the learning is what seems to get us.
Byron Katie challenges us to go beyond acceptance but to actually LOVE what is. I think that is a very advanced stage. In fact, I think that takes true mastery. First, we certainly have to have a taste so that we know what we are dealing with (an appetizer or a main course). Be with it, so to speak, in order to get a glimpse of what we are entering into. In Buddhist terms, that would be figuring out, by investigation, understanding how we arrived in the particular place we are in and figuring out what the component parts of it are. But, in Buddhist practice, acceptance comes very early in the practice because the concept is that until you accept, you cannot move on.
Well, hallelujah to that! I think that is why acceptance is so difficult for so many of us. It really means giving up how we wished, hoped, and wanted things to be and recognizing how they actually are. Really. Now. In real life. In real time. The disparity between those two realities can be so far apart that they can actually devastate us.
But what if we didn't allow that? What if we just looked at the reality and said "Yes! That is what I am dealing with and now that I know, I can move on!" What if we tried that starting with one of anyone of our 21 difficult realities? What if?
What if we even went so far as to have a good laugh at ourselves with it?
For instance, what if I said: "I LOVE that you continually lie to me!" "And I thank you for showing me this again and again!" Wheew. That's one big battle off the table. Well, isn't it? Because giving all of your energy to a desire you want/hope will/may change but never does, or never may is a huge energy drain in your life if in fact, it is in direct opposition to a trait which is of great value to you and your own well-being.
We can substitute all kinds of things: addiction, love, power dynamics... but often the hardest of all, is loss, illness, and betrayal.
How can we LOVE "what is" then?
We just try. It doesn't always happen and it doesn't necessarily stick. So we just keep at it. That is why I always say it is a practice, and forgiveness, a lifestyle. We have to live into it every day. Keep walking towards it tenderly with a soft and open heart, every day. Sometimes, every moment. Because when we fail at it miserably, we can keep trying again and again. We just keep going back and in that moment, it is a new moment of being reborn into our original goodness. No judgment. Just starting again. Trying again. To be with what is. Accept what is. Eventually loving what is. And forgiving what is.
I'm going to go through my list today and I am going to start by having a good laugh at the list. Instead of seeing it as daunting. I'm going to try a new approach.
I'm tired of thinking of it as hard. And I'm tired of thinking of it as arduous "work." It simply is what there is to do so that I can be more free. And so that I can be happier.
Sondheim came up with some of his most brilliant works just by listening. Listening with his full heart. Listening to friends. Just listening. And that is truly the deepest practice from which love and compassion germinate.
So here's to you, Stevie... I'm so grateful "[You're} Still Here!" Thank you for serving up such full meals to us all these years and not just hors d'oeuvres! You always said the audience preferred the main course!
Well, I'm still here. And I'm ready to start again.