It has been the strangest ride, let me tell you. There was a period in which I experienced my it as debilitating. (The it is completely irrelevant. Besides your it is different from my it and I really want to give you a spiritual idea you can apply to your it. And even if you’re between its, there are more its coming so pay attention anyway.
Now, to say that I experienced it as debilitating is to say that I had a difficult time falling asleep. And I would have you understand that it was in St. Louis, Missouri, 1988, that I fell asleep on a jet during taxi and slept through the first round of those little peanut packets. It’s equally factual that I once fell asleep during a New Year’s Eve, midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now, for those who might not know (and I didn’t) to fall asleep during a New Year’s Eve midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show is to fall asleep in a swirling spectacle of shouting transvestites, rubber gloves and flying toast.
Nonetheless, to say that I experienced it as debilitating is to say that I had a difficult time falling asleep. And when I managed to fall asleep, I had a difficult time staying asleep. Fitful dreams would rouse me and there I would remain in the dark troubled by a desperate longing for incompletion to reach completion faster, for disharmony to reach harmony faster, for injustice to reach justice faster. And through it all I was troubled by a desperate longing for someone to help.
Upon reflection, I think I really wanted someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy. And I really wanted someone to tell me that I wasn’t alone.
And while I compartmentalize well (some think that’s a guy thing) and was able to lose myself in the hundred email messages of any given day, or the latest set of financial reports, or the next inspirational idea or in the next creative song possibility, I was tired and stressed and I’m sure it can be said that my team afforded me no small amounts of grace from time-to-time (although I must admit, I haven’t asked).
After all, I know I didn’t always behave well. I allowed certain habitual behaviors to run rampant — behaviors which, quite simply, do not represent or support the me that I desire to bring to my incarnation, to my community and to my world.
And what I can tell you is that the exhaustion and stress reached a point of unsustainability. Something had to shift. And it did. And that shift was (and remains) life—changing.
In that exhaustion and stress, my capacity to struggle, effort, fight and resist eventually fell away and I quite simply began to experience myself as porous. It was as if I allowed my it to pour through me without any resistance whatsoever. My it began to pour through me – no longer triggering anything within me at all. And I relaxed for the first time in weeks.
Now, I say it’s been the strangest ride for in my newfound porousness (in my newfound perviousness), my experience of it began to change. It’s not that incompletion reached completion or that disharmony reached harmony or that injustice reached justice. It’s that my experience of it began to change.
And what I want you to get is that I’m not talking about being in pain and pretending that I wasn’t. I’m not talking about affirming that the universe works for me, never against me (true as I believe that to be); I’m not talking about affirming that I live under redemptive law, that beauty waits in the wings even as the grand theatrics of human stupidity continue to stomp and slobber across the stage of my experience (true as I believe that to be).
I’m not a big fan of lying, you see. And I’m cautionary about the leverage of spiritual practices such as affirmations and denials and even prayer in support of dishonesty about one’s inner world or in support of the arbitrary demonization of an entire range of human emotion just because it doesn’t feel good. I’m cautionary every time I hear, “I was doing well, but then I found myself crying again yesterday,” as if to do well and to cry are somehow mutually exclusive. Maybe crying is part of doing well sometimes.
It’s like the proverbial Unity minister — perhaps you’ve heard the joke. She found herself in proverbial hell, I mean — fabric stores on every corner, the music of the 1980’s blaring away, unlimited gummy worms and Tab cola. As the eternal flames licked at her flowing, silk robe there she sat, rocking back and forth with her eyes closed saying over and over, “This isn’t hell and I’m not here.”
I’m not talking about being in pain and pretending that I wasn’t. I’m talking about a radically different experience of the same it. I’m talking an authentic transformation or evolution or change from experiencing the it as debilitating to experiencing the it as exciting.
That which kept me awake at night became that which got me awake me in the morning – no longer from desperation but from inspiration. That which undoubtedly colored my days with the countless behaviors of the exhausted and stressed (again, I haven’t asked), became that which colored my days with a renewed spirit and a compelling recommitment to the quality of my own incarnation.
And again, what I want you to get is that it didn’t change. In fact, it still hasn’t changed. But my experience of it has changed dramatically. I sleep like a proverbial baby. And the catalyst from one experience of it to the other was, quite simply, a single moment in which my capacity to struggle, effort, fight and resist fell away and I began to experience myself as porous.
In truth, I don’t think we know much about our its. And yet, when an it happens, whether that it is a physical diagnosis or an interpersonal exchange or a financial surprise – when an it happens, because we’re meaning—ascribing, storytelling machines, we humans start to ascribe meaning and tell stories.
And yet, in acknowledging that we don’t know much about our its, it seems to me that the meanings we ascribe and the stories we tell reveal a lot more about us that they reveal about it. The meanings we ascribe and the stories we tell reveal a lot more about our histories and our fears and our genetics and our perceptions than they reveal about life’s its.
In truth I don’t know much about my it. I don’t know if there was malice in the it, but there sure was malice in the meaning I ascribed. I don’t know if there was dishonesty and unfairness in the it, but there sure was dishonesty and unfairness in the story I told.
And while it’s tempting to say, “Oh, I see where he’s going. Let’s always assume a positive intention (“Oh, she must be texting the school or the hospital or Starbuck’s with an emergency. Otherwise, why would she be driving so fast?” Or, “Oh, look at that nice man in the car behind me! I imagine that’s just how people wave in his family.”) while it’s tempting to say, “Let’s always assume a positive intention,” I fear I must disappoint. For even this is to ascribe meaning and to tell story.
For me, freedom came not from changing the meaning I ascribed or the story I told. My freedom came from relinquishing the meaning and the story altogether. Freedom came from just allowing my it to be it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I wonder if that’s what it might mean to live in the consciousness of forgiveness – not as its commonly expressed, but as an energy of radical acceptance (of complete porousness) in the face of life’s its.
And what I’ve discovered is that in my porousness (in that consciousness of forgiveness), I’m able to respond to it in better ways. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean nothing changes, it means the quality of being I bring to the change changes.
That’s certainly been true for me.
Could this be why martial arts offers that to overcome, we must yield? Why eastern culture holds water as the most powerful of the elements — able to wear away the hardest stone through complete nonresistance?
Could this be why the great Unity teacher Florence Scovel Shinn wrote, “Nothing on earth can resist an absolutely nonresistant person?”
Could this be why the rabbi and central avatar of the Christian tradition himself said, "Resist not evil?”
We tend to think that our freedom it will come from resistance. But what if our freedom will come from love. Not the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore brand of love generated by Hollywood but the spiritual love that accepts circumstances and people exactly as they are.
Eckhart Tolle, “The ego believes that in your resistance lies your strength, whereas in truth resistance cuts you off from Being, the only place of true power. Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength. So, the ego exists in a continuous resistance—mode to cover up your ‘weakness,’ which in truth is your power. In surrender, you no longer need ego defenses and false masks. You become simply real. ‘That’s dangerous,’ says the ego. ‘You’ll get hurt. You’ll become vulnerable.’ What the ego doesn’t know, of course, is that only through the letting go of resistance, through becoming ‘vulnerable,’ can you discover your true and essential invulnerability.”