Yesterday, I did not hear the news until late evening that a terrible massacre had occurred.
I stood at my kitchen counter for a moment, watching a very short news brief on my laptop to understand what my daughter just told me. My heart swelled and broke and tears came.
Our in-person monthly deep dive group had already met for three hours in the afternoon for our final meeting before summer break (we begin again Oct. 23rd in Seattle for 9 months).
I had been moved and touched by peoples’ work during our group. Many of them had written on their bodies. They were feeling ugly, angry with their appearance, disgusted, frightened, aging, incapable of change.
And then, later, this terrible news.
I let it sink into me, and throughout the evening, let The Work do itself within before I began to write.
This tragedy is horrifying, disgusting, violent, wrong, confusing, frightening. Some of the very same words I wrote about it were the very same words I had heard earlier about the body.
Question Four of The Work is: Who would you be without your thought? Who would you be without the thought that what you see is incapable of change, or permanently disgusting, or love is not possible in the presence of it? Who would you be without thinking your body is horrible looking, ugly, something to look away from?
What about other ugly things? Like human violence?
People in the group yesterday noticed how difficult it was to feel, or imagine in any way whatsoever who they’d be….
….without the belief their body was imperfect, wrong, preventing them from getting something they wanted, a barrier to happiness, fat, or ugly.
Sometimes….it is not easy to find who we would be without the feeling of hatred, rage, misery, disgust, or fear about something we see in reality.
It feels like denial.
As someone in the group yesterday said, with deep grief and pain (about her body)….
….”But. This problem is REAL.”
No one has to drop any thoughts. No one has to make themselves NOT think something they ARE actually thinking is absolutely true.
But here’s what I notice about reality.
It is unconditional. As in….there are no conditions. It is what it is.
It does not really care what we think. Reality moves as it moves, it unfolds the way it unfolds. It doesn’t really wait to see if we’re OK with it or not.
I notice Reality doesn’t ask me for my vote.
I can feel enraged, bitter, despairing and hateful about what goes on in Reality, in my life, in this body, with my appearance….
….or I can question my thoughts about it compassionately.
I can fight what is, or the other choice I’ve often made (thinking it gave me some power) is I can refuse to respond, in stubborn defiance.
I can use what I see as proof that Planet Earth is screwed up, or this body is screwed up, or that my mind is screwed up….
….but whatever I’m looking at, when I see there’s something at fault, it feels like…
Who would I be, or WHAT would I be, without the fearful, war-like thinking? What would it FEEL like, without believing everything I think?
Can I look at the thing I supposedly always hate, through the eyes of the Beloved? Can I look through Reality’s eyes that are unconditional, mysterious, and pulsing with life?
Turning the thought around: What I see is not pure ugliness, hopeless, gross, to-be-avoided, unworthy, disgusting, wrong, a mistake, incapable of changing, hideous, impossible.
This is not ever saying anything I see I must accept without question, or think of as good, or think of as friendly, or feel joyful towards it, if I don’t.
“The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” ~ Helen Keller
With my body, if I don’t like living in it, I can move closer to it, become very intimate with it, taste, smell, be with how it moves, what it feels like to eat, notice it, care for it, get to know it instead of ignoring it. I can imagine dropping all my rules and hatred about it and start over, with fresh eyes, from scratch.
I can do this with death, too. I can do this with tragedy, and fear, depression and suffering. I can become intimate with Reality instead of trying to defy it or fight it, hate it or ignore it.
Starting here. With this body. With other people. With events I encounter. With death.
I can question the story of what I think is impossible, even as it hurts.
Much love, Grace
P.S. there may be room to squeeze you in at Breitenbush in Oregon. Call 503-854-3320 to ask to attend the June 22-26 Retreat: Declare Peace, The Work of Byron Katie.