Today, feel Love touching places of fear. For your first step, you don't have to solve whatever it is that is making you afraid. You just have to feel Love there, holding you, holding your fear, touching your fear with warmth, care, trustworthy tenderness. Stay in that awareness.
Our animal nature sees groups through the lens of hierarchy: we rank people by who has the most status, the most influence or power or popularity; we map people by who is the closest to the center of belonging.
This is not the way Love sees. Love places everyone in the center of belonging.
To create more heaven-like spaces, see like Love sees: that everyone is welcome, everyone belongs. We have to treat others that way - both one-on-one and within the group. We have to treat and see ourselves that way, with a graceful, confident sense of our own divine worth. We have to be fierce in our efforts. We can transform atmospheres.
Today, an image came to mind of a TV ad from decades ago for a bathroom cleaner called Scrubbing Bubbles. A woman sprayed the cleaner in the tub. In the ad, round, smiling cartoon bubbles with brushes on the bottom whirl around the tub until it sparkles. The happy woman didn't have to do any scrubbing!
Today, I felt those scrubbing bubbles of Spirit working on my shame. Some of us are easily burdened by feelings of inadequacy, of failing to live up to our own or others standards or what we imagine God is asking of us. That shame has the result of limiting our joy, our ability to see clearly, and our courage for taking risks. We sometimes know our shame is sabotaging us and try to fight it through valiant effort--and feel even more shame when we're not successful.
Today, know that like that happy lady watching her scrubbing bubbles do the work, we can feel the presence of Spirit scrubbing us clean of whatever is making us feel grimy, whatever is undermining our hope or energy. The energy of Spirit does this work.
In the Bible, Isaiah proclaims that the Lord has sent him to "bind up the broken-hearted."
We can become easily overwhelmed by the demands on our lists, the range of needs, all that feels undone. Today, as you decide how to spend your day, prioritize binding up the broken-hearted. That means recognizing that many people around us are broken-hearted, whether we see it or not, and need our empathy and kindness. It means recognizing the broken-hearted parts of ourselves and treating them with tenderness and practical care.
Today, if you feel a moment of calm and joy, sit with the feeling. Savor it. Be grateful for it. Accept it gracefully, as you would a loving present.
If old habits of worry try to nudge in, gently press them away. If your brain tries to argue there is too much suffering and too much need in the world to be joyful, gently remind yourself that you will have plenty of opportunities to work on the world's problems. Joy and calm will not undermine your motivation, but will renew you for the journey.
From Buddhist teacher Kevin Griffin's book Living Kindness:
"It's hard to give love to others if you can't give it to yourself; and your heart cries out for love.
When it comes to loving others, it makes sense that, if our feelings toward ourselves are unkind, any effort to be kind to others will be adulterated. These efforts will always be colored by some form of neediness. Either we will try to get validation from others or compensate for our lack of self-worth by being extra 'good.' These external efforts will never succeed as long as our inner world feels barren.
And it's that very barren feeling inside that makes us think we don't deserve love. We look inside and see anxiety and sadness; worry and stress; irritation and judgement. Then we equate feeling bad with being bad. In this formulation, if we are bad, then clearly we don't deserve love.
Instead of self-judgment, metta encourages us to care for ourselves simply because we are suffering, to be kind to the sadness and worry; to be gentle with the judgement and irritation. We actually give love to those very feelings. Rather than fighting with our inner life, we open to it with acceptance and compassion."
Today, wish well for yourself: "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from suffering." Feel free to modify or add other phrases that speak to you. In Buddhism, this is one step in a meditation called metta. You could call it a blessing or a prayer. Feel it. Know that sending love and kindness to yourself is not selfish, but will help you act (toward yourself and others) from a whole, healthy, generous place.
Often, in our relationships, we keep the truth from other people because we don't want to cause them suffering. But, in reality, our souls, the deepest, truest parts of ourselves, want to know the truth, even if it is difficult, even if the ego resists. Our soul senses when there is a secret or obfuscation, and that also causes suffering and confusion. We can't grow or make wise decisions when the truth is hidden from us.
Likewise, we sometimes keep truth hidden from ourselves because we are trying to avoid suffering. We don't always know the ways in which we are lying to ourselves, but we can ask Spirit, in deep humility, to reveal the truth to us. We can listen, with an open heart and mind, to the feedback from others.
Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, explains that our efforts should not be toward "perfecting" ourselves (or others) or "becoming a 'good' person," but about "making an already good love more perfect and real." We don't try to get ourselves (or others) to "be 'good'"; we "already are."
He asks us to acquaint ourselves with our "natural fearlessness."
Without realizing it, we can sometimes imagine God as an authority figure, a boss or an exacting parent, to whom we feel we must present our best selves and make a good impression. But God wants to hold all parts of us. God is more like the wise and loving friend with whom we can share all the complicated and weak and ignorant and confused and immature parts of ourselves and be held with absolute compassion and understanding and forgiveness. Trust that there is nothing too big or hard or dark for God to hold with you. This kind of honesty, openness, and trust is the beginning of real growth.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.