The Great Unknown
February 28, 2011 § 22 Comments
I went for a walk in icy rain this morning and for some reason I thanked God to be having just that experience. I wasn’t trying to change my attitude or reframe my thoughts, changing “miserable” into “bracing.” I actually turned back when the rain grew too heavy. But my vision opened up for a moment and a mechanical, ordinary thought–“At least it isn’t snowing again, thank God”–became the much less ordinary recognition that it was thoroughly good to be alive, to be feeling the sting of rain drops and smelling melted snow and the faint smell of earth, of coming spring. Just for a moment, I tasted how life opens up when we don’t judge.
It’s a pretty good guess that the revered spiritual teacher Jeanne de Salzmann, who is not infrequently mentioned here, and the writer of popular books about addiction Melody Beattie have never been mentioned in the same sentence–not to mention Buddha and Jesus (just for good measure). But here is something all have in common: a sense of the crushing negative force of of our own judgements. Judge not lest ye see little more than your own limited projections about life. De Salzmann teaches how judging what we see ends seeing, ends the effort to connect withhigher forces and a greater reality and–at the risk of bringing some severe judgements into this blog space–I have to say that there is a similar intuition behind some bestelling books on the secret laws of the universe and making miracles. Admittedly, those secret and miracle books get off the track and into high weeds but, BUT, authors like Beattie have lived or otherwise stumbled upon a very powerful principle: Not resisting our experience, learning to be thankful for everything, to receive everything without resistance, can be, well, miraculous.
Is it possible to see what is, even our own most cringe-worthy manifestations, and accept it without judgement, without repression? Of course, I don’t mean acting out in violent ways or tolerating awful behavior in others. It’s a good idea to come in out of the rain. After all these years, I’m beginning to understand that way towards freedom and peace and happiness has to include freedom from self-judgement and self-repression…and that includes judging our own irrepressible tendency to judge all the time. Last summer I was at a gathering where a friend spoke of what it is like to think you are going to die. Years ago, doctors told her she was going to die. Yet, laying in her hospital bed waiting to die, she discovered something extraordinary. Her fear and concern about her self fell away and life became beautiful, fascinating, endlessly interesting and, well, life giving. Knowing that there was no hope for things to be otherwise, she lost her concern about herself. She stopped worrying about fixing this and covering up that. She put herself in the hands of the Great Unknown. This is the Way.
Of course what I’m proposing goes against the grain of habit. But I’m really interested in practicing letting my experience in without feeling like I have to do anything about it. What if we learned to hold what arises in the light of awareness and compassion? What if we actually regarded ourselves as my friend did in the hospital, as human, flawed, mortal…and in the hands of the Great Benevolent Unknown?