Just like that. Forgiveness. Gratitude. Love made manifest. Life redeemed. This four-year-old child created a miracle of grace in the cold, concrete, fluorescent aisle of a big box store.
I've been thinking about tolerance and the 7 Childhood Treasures. An abundance of commentary on tolerance and its lack filled our media in the final run-up to the election and in the 13 days that have followed (I am writing on 11/21/16).
So, I looked up a definition, to give myself a place to start. Tolerance is the act of allowing something to be different. Tolerating something is to "leave it alone." Tolerating someone is to leave them alone.
Clearly, tolerance is a form of the gem of Acceptance, the last of the 7 Treasures. That was the seam of mining that opened up for you between 6 and 7 years of age. That was the time of your life when the adults around you could have helped you learn that bad circumstances sometimes occur, even in the lives of people who do a lot of good. This was the age at which you could have learned to let go of past grievances, to live with your arms open to the moment, rather than hugging tight a resentment from years or decades ago. That was the developmental period when you could have learned to welcome what is happening, embracing every circumstance as a learning opportunity, rather than wrestle with and try to change what is. That was the age at which you could have learned to leave others alone, to allow something or someone to be different and know that is not about you. I think that last part is the crux of the matter.
Have you ever felt sort of – or very – stuck in a behavior pattern that doesn’t really help you or improve your life? What psychologists call “maladaptive behavior” can be any form of addiction, as well as other patterns you might not think of as an addiction: micro-managing people or isolating from them, for example. Mal, as in Spanish for “badly,” plus adaptive = badly adaptive behavior. These maladaptations are strategies custom-built by a child to manage the stresses of childhood, then grown up to adult versions that aren't particularly effective at coping with adult stress.
Whenever I engage in one of these patterns, I always hope to realize – ideally sooner, rather than later – that it’s a sort of IM from my body/mind/spirit that something is awry. Hello? Carol? Some Childhood Treasure clearly needs more mining or polishing!
Have you ever sat in a meeting of professional colleagues--people in leadership positions in your work world--confronted with what appear to be a roomful of misbehaving toddlers?
Maybe this occurrence is less regular in the corporate world but, in the nonprofit and government worlds in which I work, this image captures a frequent occurrence. I often see supposed adults act like children. In fact, I recently witnessed some of the best evidence I've ever seen that, just because the human body "grows up," doesn't mean the emotional or psychological bodies keep pace.
How do we behave when the 7 Childhood Treasures have not all been mined, polished and gathered in the treasure chest of our adult relationship assets? Here are a few samples I observed in some recent meetings:
I will give these colleagues some credit for the fact that the persons they were reacting to were, in all cases, on the phone rather than in the room, so that person, at least, could not see all these reactions. Yet, the rest of us could. And I've seen subtler displays of these same reactions to a speaker who was present in the room. I always have to wonder...if you'll do that to this person, will you do it to me? Have you done it to me in the past?
“You are sending off energy - emitting energy - right now, from the center of your being in all directions. This energy - which is you - moves outward in wave patterns. The energy leaves you, moves through walls, over mountains, past the moon, and into Forever. It never, ever stops.” ~~Neale Donald Walsch Facebook post, 08/03/16.
This statement is a complete, total, physical-realm, capital-T, scientific TRUTH. I mean that, really: it's physics; it's measurable. And this statement has a spiritual implication of personal responsibility that stuns me with its importance. This unstoppable energy I emit with every breath and beat of my heart: what kind of energy IS it?
Do I fill the world with anger, fear, resentment, blame, and pain? Or do I send out wave after wave of love, joy, gratitude, empathy, curiosity, and enthusiasm?
My energy. My choice.
"You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile." I've always loved that much-repeated line from Star Trek: Next Generation and the franchises beyond it. Every Borg character with a speaking part says it at some point, I think. Could the writers have dreamed up any statement more likely to kick resistance into high gear in the average human mind...? "Don't tell me what's futile, you mish-mash of mechanical...."
And yet, I and a few million like-minded others around the globe believe in and yearn for ever-higher awareness of the ultimate assimilation: our Oneness in the Divine. Spirit within yearns and yearns for that union, as strongly as the human ego resists remembering that eternal unity. Truly, resistance is not futile, at all! It very effectively keeps us separated from and unconscious of the truth of who we are.
Until it doesn't.
Even when the little human ego mind catches glimpses of this forgotten truth and, just for a second or two, we know that we are One, "quickly we will forget to remember" (Holly Near, Planet Called Home). We return almost instantly to the sleeping state of human consciousness...and go back to resisting!
"Life sucks. That's it. It just sucks."
That's what my beloved friend said to me today. She (and I hope you, dear reader) knows me well enough to know that this is not a statement that describes my point of view. Yet, it clearly and succinctly describes hers -- at least up to now.
I feel so sad, knowing that this belief lies upon her heart today. I imagine how heavy it must be, holding her bright spirit pinned relentlessly beneath its unforgiving weight. My own heart dances every day, footloose in the certainty that life is beautiful, loving, and forever bringing me gifts designed for my greatest good. I want this dancing lightness for my friend, as I want it for all who suffer from this crushing belief that "life sucks."
When your childhood leaves you with an empty treasure chest -- none of the deliciously glittering bounty of the 7 Childhood Treasures mined or polished -- this belief that life sucks is the outcome. Without Trust, I could not believe that life "has my back." Without Independence, I would be unable to separate my real life from the daily circumstances that seem to be my life. Without Faith, I could not hold onto a higher purpose to carry me beyond the rollercoaster of "stuff that happens" every day, to everyone. Without Negotiation, I will not get what I want....
See how this goes? If I seem to be struggling alone, if I seem to BE the ups and downs of the journey rather than the one navigating them, if I see no purpose for my life, if I cannot get what I want.... Those colors on my brush do paint a picture that could be titled, "Life Sucks."
I experienced utter and complete failure one recent Wednesday night at 10:59 PM. The pain was acute, piercing, intense, deep in my gut. It unhinged me for a minute; left me feeling limp and in need of support. Suddenly, I realized I had that ally in the most unlikely character as a result of Netflixing the latest season of Once Upon a Time!
I know, right? Well, bear with me for a second (no spoilers)....
This season weaves in the character of Merida from Disney/Pixar's 2012 movie Brave. Merida's story line features a witch who gave her father a magic helmet when he asked for something "to ensure the continuation of his kingdom." In the category of 'be careful what you ask for,' he thought the helm would work because its power would make all the clans follow him into battle, no matter how deadly the foe, or hopeless the cause. Suffice it to say, that's not at all the way the magic worked! It took some time to see how that helmet created the outcome of ensuring continuity in the kingdom and, for quite a while, it looked as if it had failed its purpose...and not just failed but Fuhhhh-Ayyyylllllled, on a Very. Grand. Scale.