What can I say, as an American who has found refuge in Europe for the past 21 years? Everyone else is busy saying it all. On one side – shock, dismay, fear. On the other – glee, revenge, hope of becoming great again.
I’m afraid I saw this coming a long time ago – like 21 years ago? – and am not surprised. But it is still painful to watch. I can’t bare to hear his name ever again. And yet it will undoubtedly resound in history. Her name has quietly sunken into the “what-might-have-been” (The WMH-bin). Buried under heartache and broken pride.
Of course, this all happened because of _________________ (fill in the blank). But underneath it all, what we really have to face is the moral and spiritual crises we are in. As Assagioli wrote:
“Everything that happens is a mix of good and evil in various proportions. This is only to highlight that each aspect is equally real.”
My life has recently been full of endings. Having moved from Germany to Italy, I’ve had to say good bye to family, friends, and acquaintances, my garden, my bicycle, and the comfort of the familiar. My husband and I were only one week in Italy when his father died. At the same time, many issues from my past were suddenly emerging, demanding that I redeem them and finally put them to rest. It felt like endings were spilling over me from heaven. A shower of good byes marking the time of new beginnings.
During the last two sessions with clients, I always ask them to focus on endings. We take our time to reflect on how they have typically ended past relationships and how, in our last session, they might like to try a different type of ending. We all have a typical way of saying goodbye. For example, there’s the tragic ending, the never-ending ending, and the disappearing ending.
One client had a ‘ritual’ ending. She would always return to the empty room/home/space that she was leaving, stand and acknowledge that space, and then say goodbye. When she told me this, I instantly thought of her birth. This client was a twin and the first-born. At the beginning of her life, a time of great numinous significance, of great endings and beginnings, her mother’s womb had not been empty when she turned to say goodbye.
Our acts of kindness are like seeds in the wind. Surrender them to be transformed into miracles.
How often do you despair at your apparent insignificance? Between the acts of war our countries participate in, world poverty and the devastation of our climate, what possible difference can we make? Such problems can feel overwhelming and our own meager lives seem so small. Even when we do rise above such feelings of inadequacy, we then might struggle to choose the most appropriate response. What actions can we possibly take at a personal level to affect what is emerging globally?
First of all, you and your actions do matter. My experience is that our significance reaches far beyond our imagination. Even the smallest acts of kindness directed towards rectifying the world’s injustices make a difference. But perhaps most surprisingly and wonderfully, even obscure acts that we may not consider meaningful can make a difference.
It may seem strange, but often the first step we need to take towards making any inner or outer change is acceptance. Usually we are stuck in some way because we are not willing to accept the reality of our situation, our limitations, past failings, or the consequences of what we think we desire. Too often we see acceptance as passive and weak. But if this is so, why is acceptance so hard to do?
Active acceptance is actually a very positive higher quality that requires a strong and skillful will. Recently, I had a woman come to see me who was struggling with her relationship with her younger sister. While growing up as the eldest daughter in a large family of nine children, Ann (not her real name) often played the role of mother to her siblings. This was especially true with her sister Liz who was 10 years younger.
Forgiveness is a transpersonal quality whose essential role is often overlooked in the story of Good Friday. Christians and non-Christians alike might reflect on Jesus’ act of forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the cross and the thief who hung crucified at his side.
After the recent carnage in Brussels, most of our world leaders are calling for heightened surveillance and security, tighter borders, illegal torture of prisoners, patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, stricter control over the flow of refugees from the Middle East, and the ultimate destruction of Isis.
Perhaps it’s too early to start talking about forgiveness, but one faint whisper of mercy would not do us any harm. Our own responsibility in co-creating the world we all live in also needs to be acknowledged and spoken.
We talk a lot about romantic love around Valentine’s Day. When romantic love devours us, we can find ourselves joyfully lost, frightened, and overpowered by intense feelings of belonging. And when this romantic love-bubble bursts, we seem to deflate into a mess of hurt, broken, and overshadowed feelings of failure and unworthiness.
It seems that love, from our human perspective, is inherently limited. The love we feel for another, as partners, family and friends, seems to come with all kinds of conditions. Some of these conditions may seem quite reasonable. For example, you might feel perfectly justified to say to your spouse: “I love you, but not if you have an affair/physically harm me/gamble away all our money.” Other conditions may be more dubious: “I love you, but only if you agree with me/let me have my own way/have enough money, beauty, fame/share my beliefs/keep me from being lonely…” This list can go on and on, depending on the deep inner needs that are unmet in the individual lover.
I realize that I am more than twice your age and might not know what’s going on. I admit that I don’t even own a smart phone. Maybe if they sold wise phones I might buy one. At 60 years old, I grew up during the time when phones were stuck to the walls, you needed to buy film for your camera, and computers were monstrous machines hidden in IBM basements.
I want to ask you to please put your phone away.
This letter is written after deep reflection. My need for you to put your phone away culminated when we met after the Christmas Eve service. I was so happy to see you and meet your two-month-old son. Last time we met, you were preparing for his birth. I was delighted to see his head covered in dark curls. He was sleeping soundly despite the festivities around us. Your husband was so proud. I bent over the little one in his stroller and marveled at his creamy skin and calm breath. Baby’s fingernails have always fascinated me. Like tiny rose petals topped with a perfect quarter moon. I gently brushed his cheek and whispered hello.
And then you dug into your purse and whipped out your phone. You had to show me pictures of your son right after his birth. Photo after photo slid across the small screen, which I can’t really see because I have become farsighted. You wanted me to marvel at his pictures. I wanted to marvel at your son.