People ask me all the time, sometimes sadly, sometimes with determination, always seriously: How do I heal this loss? Fix this marriage, this child, this messed-up world? Become who I really am without hurting those I love?
These are profound questions I often wonder about. And burdens if I imagined I was responsible to come up with the answers. That's not how it works. My job is to empower people to find their own answers - within their own hearts and minds. But it is my job to offer guidance. And since I'm in the business of healing, my clients questions are never far from my thoughts.
So...one night while I slept, my unconscious wowed me with a big dreamed-up how-to for healing. Spoken, no less, by a yoda sort of wiseman...or maybe a wisewoman...with no-nonsense specific guidance. Whether they were a man or a woman didn't seem important. I just sensed immediately that this was somebody extraordinarily significant...and I'd better listen up. Their face was lined and wrinkled and their large round eyes glistened with love. They were short, wore a long brown robe of roughly textured fabric which was belted at the waist. A large hood almost covered their face.
In the dream, I'm sitting at my computer working on a book and other writing projects...like I did every day when I wasn't seeing clients or enjoying San Antonio and my friends. In the dream I'm writing an article for Enjoy Whole Health magazine, which I did every month. My hands pause on the keys as I ask the question, "What heals?"
Enter wise one. Who says, Love heals.
In the dream it wasn't surprising that this incredible creature had showed up. It felt completely normal to have a sort-of-Yoda lovingly come when I asked the question, "What heals?" And normal for them to wait to talk with me, as I muddled through their answer in my head...love heals... Well yeah...I'm thinking. But that's not enough...
"Of course," I say to this wise being who seemed to have nothing better to do than to help me find answers to my question. "We all know that love heals. Love makes the world go around. All we need is love. But how?"
The wise one smiles, moves closer - it seems so that I can really hear what is being said - and beings to explain. Break it down. Make it simple. It goes something like this:
Let people be
Open to Universal Truth
Value yourself as much as you value others
Empty yourself of judgment
Stunned but grateful for inspiration, I thanked the Yoda for answering so clearly. The wise one - smiling and nodding - then had something else to say. You're welcome. Now do as you have heard.
Startled awake I rolled out of bed and with morning sunshine streaming into my face, I grabbed for my journal and scribbled the dream. I felt none of the calm I felt IN the dream. I was jazzed. Questioning what it could mean, I realized these were rules on the road to becoming a whole human being. How to enjoy whole health. How to heal with L-O-V-E. And...there was that commanding of voice, Do as you have heard. An imperative. Was it a warning? A caution? Or...simply a great plan? Dream messages are usually meant for the dreamer alone. But this one felt both/and...for ME to get it together but also about my work, my clients. An answer to the questions we all ask. "What heals?" A 1-2-3-4 for how to be healthy.
My head was spinning as I thought through the four proposals that made up the acronym for LOVE. Those four principles of how to behave in the world began to makes a whole lot of sense. Clearly, this wasn't about romantic love. It was about self-love. And how to do that....
Let people be.
And to do so we have to consider limiting time with others who values are in opposition to ours. Not out of judgment or meanness or because we think we're better-than. Not to be exclusive or territorial. But out of compassion for them..and ourself. Otherwise we become controlling. Don't we? We try to straighten people out so you can have a relationship with them. We try to shape people into your ideal. When the most loving was to respond to differences is to let them be to run their own life.
Just step away. Smile. Be friendly. Even mindfully kind and considerate. But don't try to make everyone our best friend. Our lover. Our boss. Let them be who they are. Just go on being ourself. No need to edit for fear we will offend or say something hurtful, or be obnoxious. Or any of the endlessly creative ways we constrict ourself when we're with people whose values are vastly different from our own.
We become a testy, defended and pushy person when we hang out for too long with people who don't share our values. Maybe especially family. We're not nice. We can pull off pretending and acting fake only so long. And then we break under the strain of falsehood. On the opposite side: People who think and feel as we do about critical issues - especially political and religious - are easy to be with. We breathe deeper when we're with them. We're not on edge. We relax. We don't have to be so careful, to control ourself, to be hyper-vigilant so we don't mess up. Reveal who we are. Strain at image-management. With like-minded people we are just ourself. And they are freed to be the same.
Even so, limiting relationships means change, and change is difficult. Commitment to people we once considered our closest confidantes, devotion to a group whose values we once agreed with, and dedication to an organization that once claimed our loyalty, may disintegrate over time as we personally grow and transform. Hanging out with harmonically resonant souls requires little effort...while struggling for common ground with ideological strangers takes a toll on the personality. Saying goodbye to a previous relationship form is wrenching...and sometimes essential for emotional well-being and peace of mind. Most importantly, reacting truthfully to our core beliefs and feelings toward someone makes us authentically congruent with our True Self.
This whole concept of letting people be is HARD. But it feels so right. Fearing loss is the primary reason for co-dependently controlling others. And yet...when control is the basis for a relationship...authentic LOVE can't exist. Right? Non-conditional acceptance of someone is the oxygen that breathes life into LOVE. And for real...it's impossible to love everyone or for everyone to love us. And that needs feel alright.
Open to Universal Truths. Open is the opposite of closed. Open to new beliefs...not a cynic, closed and narrow-thinking. Universal truth...an expansion of individual truths.
What is truth anyway? Is that with a capital T, Yoda? There is my truth. And your truth. And THE truth. How can you say that something is THE TRUTH? Countries have their truths. Families believe their ways of being are a true path. Science. Religion. Theology. Archeology. Biology. Psychology. Journalism. Mysticism. Shamanism. Truths everywhere. Opening to Universal Truths means we have to be alert...and possess beginner's mind...well-read...educated...curious...interested in pursuit of TRUTH. A student of LIFE. Am I? Are you?
What do we think of when we hear the word TRUTH? How about The American Constitution? Can we rest on truths therein? Our Constitution proposes that there are certain inalienable rights which we hold self-evident. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Self-evident? The definition of our rights is constantly in flux...and under the scrutiny of The Supremes...aka The Supreme Court. Depending on the political demographics of the court about one-half of the country will be at odds with rulings. Our Constitution often feels for some of us as if the Law of the Land, and truths self-evident are anything but.
World religions? Are there Universal Truths here? How different would the quality of life on our planet feel if we studied each other's sacred beliefs and chose several tenants of faith that are truths we can all agree on? And then we let those Truths we disagree with just be?
What about the Ten Commandments? Are they Truth? The Christian Founding Faith of our American Fathers (Yes. No Founding Mothers. Already there is something wrong with this picture.) supposed that there are two great commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Can we all agree on that? The Lord your God? Not everyone believes in a singular deity. Or in deities at all. For some people it's Dark Matter, and the scientific evidence that something indefinable binds the Universe together.
The Jewish Kabbalah proposes that all things are connected above and below. Therefore, when we understand our connection to all things then we tend to treat all things as if they are not separate from us...and we feel compassion for everyone. No doubt not all believers of this faith practices compassion for everyone. Self-interest gets in the way. But this basic belief does go down easy without conflict. Doesn't it?
Islam and Muslim beliefs have much in common with both Christianity and Judaism. If you have faith in God and belief in tenets taught through the Quran - so like the Bible with the same cast of characters and stories - and follow the commandments with good works, Islam faith suggests that you attain paradise. Muslims and their religion that we in the West have represented politically in a harshly negative light is not the Islam that is based on common texts about love as the healing potion from which all three ancient religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - all suppose to drink.
The almost impossible task of discerning Universal Truths for these three primal faiths lies in dealing with scriptures that they each cherry pick, accepting some and excluding others from their Holy Books. If my book is better than your books...and my messiah with relevant texts make up the true books and not yours... then we will fight forever about who is right and who is wrong. And so we do. THE ultimate religious truth is unlikely to be discerned in the foreseeable future. Yet core to all three of these world religions is the true need to be a decent human being. And maybe that's the point: we don't need universal religious agreement. We just need to respectfully and universally agree that all human beings have a universal right to their opinion. After the statement and understanding of which we stop the posturing and allow each other to BE as we are. Surely the right of every human being to respect for who and what they are stands up as a Universal Truth...not the supposedly sacred facts of who what when where how and why of our holy scripts...or lack thereof.
Buddhism isn't caught in that three-religion might-makes-right tangle of God-Jesus-Muhammad. Buddhist belief suggests that every life has the purpose of achieving supreme happiness through total awareness of itself and of the universe. Buddhism supposes: What we are today comes from thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build on life of tomorrow; our life is the creation of the mind. Buddhists believe that all suffering is caused by attachment. And attachment to our TRUTH is a whopper.
I think what the Yoda might be saying without saying it, is that narcissism - and especially religious narcissism it seems to me! - is toxic. Narcissism: Believing we are right and others are wrong...that we alone have a leg-up on the truth. And we're not remotely interested in walking in someone else's shoes. Because you see...they're just wrong. And we are incapable of empathy. This is poison. Rigid people break. And break others in their fall. It makes sense to realize that beneath the skin or race, color, sexual orientation, gender, country, politics and religion we are more alike than different. We are all universal citizens. We are all human beings. We are all worthy of love and respect.
Clearly, Truth isn't a static concept. It changes as humanity changes and evolves through education, research and science, all pressing into new frontiers. Sure...there are hard truths and moral certainties that can't be compromised. Murder, rape, theft...all these are about character. And considered amoral in every civilized country on the earth. There are hard truths and what I understand as soft truths - more about cultural and religious preferences than absolutes across all cultures. For these soft truths - since I'm a Texas girl - it seems to me that far fewer callouses and bruises are possible if we take a few roads less traveled and sit easy in the saddle.
Value yourself as much as you value others. This suggestion makes me think about co-dependency where placing personal needs second to the needs of others is the accepted standard. Love = Sacrifice. When in effect, that nasty un-loving tit for tat is really about manipulation to ensure that you are OK and happy so that you will then make me OK and happy. We give to get. We keep score. Are we conscious that we're doing that? NO. Doesn't everybody do it? Isn't that how the game is played. Often. And rather horrifying. Caretaking has equated to love through the eons. In the hunter-gatherer days when role definition made sense it was really about allocating tasks so everything got done and survival was ensured. Today role definition is about domination and control. In our modern world, relationships are failing more than they are succeeding. Many avoid committed partnership and are labeled commitment-phobic. But are they? Phobic? Or just noting the clues that love seems to go downhill immediately after "I do". Clearly, the form of partnership where one partner is the boss of the other needs a cultural rethink and reboot.
When both partners carry their own load, fill their own bucket, drink from their own well, we are filled-up human beings with much to give. When we know how to make ourself happy - and don't have to depend on someone else for doing that - the pressure of relationships evaporates. We are with each other out of want instead of need. We negotiate. We plan together. Nobody is boss. We share. We're happy campers...instead of chained together in strangling, unholy matrimony. Nobody wins in this scenario. Only filled-up, lively people have anything to give.
Empty yourself of judgment. It's a nasty truth: We become what we hate. While condemning others we poison our insides with disgust, and dredge deep neurological pathways of disdain. Peace is not achieved by imagining war. For there to be harmony equality and love, our battleground ideology has to become extinct. We might one day become intent on finding the middle path...on mindfully focus on mutually agreeable solutions...all of us, all of humanity compassionately becoming change-agents for good. Because we've evolved to become peacemakers. Blows my mind to image.
Think about it. When we're all judge-y in our heads aren't we offering free rent to the person we're judging? We know how that feels. They are clueless. And we're the gerbil on a wheel spinning and spinning. Unable to stop. Making ourselves and everyone around us miserable. The only person that judgment hurts is us. Filling ourself with love instead of hate has got to be a better plan. And to do that we sometime have to gently back away..let people be...with the humble understanding that our Truth is not necessarily THE TRUTH.
Learning to gently step away and walk down a different path seems key to all of these messages for creating healing L-O-V-E. Not speeding up when someone criticizes. Or slowing down when they praise. But just keeping steadily on the path that seems ours to walk.
This dream, the challenge of acting and reacting as L-O-V-E suggests reminds me of Scott Peck's love definition taken from The Road Less Traveled: "Love is the willingness to extend yourself for the spiritual good of yourself or another." We are all spiritual beings in human form. Each of us a unique treasure. As we take care of, nurture, and treat ourself with respect and love, we have that same measure to share with others. We change and grow not by knowing and voicing what we hate but by discovering who we are and what we love.