It is a common response to deal with pain by eliminating the cause or reminders of it. We put a finger on a hot stove, and eliminate stoves from our tactile exploration. We do poorly with a certain teacher or in a certain class and swear off that subject, or school entirely. We experience some pain in a certain place and swear off that place. A person hurts our feelings, and we eliminate them from our lives. We experience romantic agony, and shun romance. Music can transport us in time and suddenly we ache again over a sorrow long past. We may develop prejudices and racism, where we are embittered by an entire gender, race, religious group, or country.
As we get older, our collection accumulates, and we may experience times where everything causes us pain—a person, a song, a picture, a newspaper article, even a trip down a grocery aisle may bring back painful memories, regrets and reminders of what we have lost or never had. We may get to the point where we are happiest—or least pained—when we are most isolated, physically or emotionally. We may create this isolation by avoidance, by passive aggression, or violence.
Then, there is the polar opposite approach, blessing the Tao te Ching‘s 10,000 things—all the stuff of our human lives, the good, the bad, the endless minutiae. Adyashanti, a teacher out of Los Gatos, California, talks of this as an enlightening experience for him. There was a time when he took it up as his daily, constant practice, and began to bless everything he encountered. Everything. His bed, his pillow, his toothbrush, his chair, his food, his car, a loved one, a stranger he passed on the street—every single person, place and thing.
It reminds me of those wonderful lines in the movie Chocolat:
Listen, here’s what I think. I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include. Screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs, from the novel by Joanne Harris
I can choose embracing, creating and including, instead of denying, resisting and excluding. It is an option. Today I am in ‘licking my wounds’ mode, denying and resisting. I can begin to bless only mechanically, grudgingly. But at least I can begin.