One of my students keeps wrestling with letting go of pieces of her past. She understands that she needs to forgive herself. But, she can’t reconcile the behavior in her mind. It was wrong, she says (whatever that means). I should have never done it, she argues. I keep trying to explain that forgiveness doesn’t mean that she has to accept that the behavior was right (whatever that means).
Forgiveness simply means letting go. Eckhart Tolle says, “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” Letting go would mean moving forward; letting go would mean stepping into her power. And that’s what she’s terrified to do - to move forward and step into her power.
Full of beauty and love and raw talent, she pikes into handstand in a way that makes me feel both envy and inspiration. She longs to teach yoga; actually, she longs to heal others. Jung used the term wounded healer, to describe his belief that disease of the soul could be the best possible form of training for a healer.
“Your practice is inspiring,” I omit how envious I am of her handstand. “You’ll make a great teacher.”
She huffs back at me like a horse. Horse Stance is her nemesis.
“There’s a gift for you in this pose,” I say. I keep encouraging to find the grace in it.
“Good, why don’t you just go ahead and tell me what it is,” she remarks.
I’ve worked hard to bring this part of her to her place on the mat. Fierce with a side of sultry, I keep ordering a la carte from the menu.
“Don’t come out of the pose yet,” I want to laugh. “And don’t blow me off. Do you think I tell everyone they’d make a great teacher? Please.”
We all have a sore spot, a wound, from our past that resurfaces in the present moment.
Let’s pretend for a moment that the whole world—all of creation—is the ocean. Each soul is a drop of water in the ocean. It’s not that far-fetched to believe that we are water since we're comprised of water. And like water, which exists in three states, we undergo transformation. Like holding Horse Stance for what seems like forever, transformation is certainly not easy, nor comfortable.
As much as the image of drops of water vying for position with one another brings me joy, I seriously doubt that one drop of water looks at another with envy and disdain. Like Mohandas Ghandi said, “Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Though the intensity of connection varies, the universe bonds together every drop in the ocean, and the sun shines upon each indiscriminately.
Wayne Dyer says that if you take a glass of water and separate it from its source—the ocean—then pour the water away from its source and ask it to sustain life, it disappears. It just evaporates. It can’t sustain life. While the water is separated, that’s the ego.
“I keep forgiving myself,” my student explains, “but then these thoughts keep creeping back in.”
Our thoughts are the salt that we keep smearing inside our wounds. And certainly, this behavior brings us tremendous dis-ease, but our ego assures us that we deserve it. The voice of the ego is always there; it can dissolve, but it’s never gone. But like salt in the ocean, it is not the primary descriptor. When you stand at the feet of the ocean what do you see? Salt? No. At once, you see ineffable beauty and breathtaking power. At once, you see your own insignificance and significance. Grace.
Standing near the ocean elicits a visceral response, one that ebbs and flows like the waves. It moves us to understand that at the deepest level, we are not the ego. We are not our bodies. We are not the things that we have done, “good,” nor “bad”. We are not that which has happened to us, “right” or “wrong.” We are one with all of life. This understanding charges us to look for the grace in every experience, every circumstance, every wound.
To my student, I say: What if I told you those toxic thoughts would always be there? Maybe not with the same frequency and intensity, but nonetheless, always present in some capacity. When you think you’ve banished them forever, they reappear like shower mold to challenge your resolve. Bad news? Maybe. But, one drop of water does not look itself in the mirror and feel shame and regret.
So, here’s the good news: we always have the power to choose a different thought. Just as our thoughts can wound us, they can soothe us like a salve. Return to source. See your magnificence. Forgive yourself. Choose grace.