I wish I knew the beauty
Of leaves Falling
To whom are we beautiful
As we go?

A Parable

There once lives a king, long before our histories. He sat at the center of a thriving united kingdom. His subjects were joyful. His lands were ripe, green and beautiful. One day the king was walking in the gardens to the west when, like a fish hook, his gaze was reeled to the sight of a single, brown spot on the leaf of a rose bush. He pondered at the deadening spot for day and night as if possessed. The king could not help but stare with all earnest as he watched the gradual decay spread from leaf to stem to branch to roots. Flowers began to die by the thousands. The rains did not seem to come, and, in time the entire kingdom was in grave despair.

Marriage to the Self

In, week 2 of the Three Marriages we take a look at the marriage to the self. Who is the self? And what does it mean to invest our time, energy and effort into it. We may, on the surface be thinking the self is simply how we feel or making ourselves into who we want to be. We may stand up for and defend a sense that we have the right to be happy or treated fairly, loved unconditionally, supported, saved, received, and ok with things. Should we consider the self In terms of our expectations will surely come to some horrible let down. Our realizations that no one will live our lives for us, no one will offer the perfect medicine or promise the world, leaves will indeed die and the bliss of innocent perfectionism will painfully disappoint.

Talk of the self in such broad strokes can leave us wondering and wandering. The reality is that the self, that inner me and inner you, belongs not to our best or our worst, but instead to the world. It is not the self that creates our lives, nor is it our lives that create the self. By definition to be connected with the self is simply that. A connection.

Confronting Great Mystery and Adversity

To look within is not for the faint of heart. In our inner being, we confront great mystery, great adversity, fear, doubt, even badness. The self is not purified, not always kind, not even realized completely. From the self we experience all the instincts to love and take chances, to hope and dream, to step through the window and risk for our greatest longings. But also, the self may completely destroy what we think we are, at least on the surface. The ego and the self are not always the best of friends. Our versions of the story we like best, the hard-knock truths we demand to live by and expect of others are of no consequence to the self. Our truest being is always there, beneath the layers of how we think things should be.

A Reminder From David Whyte

David Whyte tells us a few things to remember when braving the inner world and searching out the experience of being one with what is within us. Firstly, Whyte wants us to know that life is where we leap. When we think about our passions, there requires a renewed innocent hope in order for our efforts to really come from the soul. In whatever experiences present themselves to you and me today, it is important to attend to the innocent hopes. Some of us may feel worn, beaten and even betrayed by life, and yet, the willingness to dream carries the soul onward. In part, this week I want to emphasize the role of hope.

Making Room for the Stirring of the Soul

If we are to commit to a marriage with the self we have to make room in the mundane, broken and hopeless for the stirring of the soul. Rather than forcing our energy into what we cannot change, what if we could come to an awareness of where the energy imagines itself toward?  Can we help ourselves and our clients by making room for these surfacing hopes? Of course, our perfect images do not come to pass, in fact, they may not come at all, but the drive is inextricably linked to our hope.  For the first glimpse of the self, everything must be possible. We have to step toward that light of possibility that expands the reaches of the self into a deeper and more profound experience.

An Unavoidable Truth

Secondly, Whyte offers that the pursuit of the self begins when we accept that human anxiety is endless and constant. There will always be waves of existential anxiety that knock over the surface self. The true self is that which remains. In each death and rebirth, every loss or inconceivable hijinks, the remainder is what always was and ever will be. A presence, an experience that we do not control nor manage, a truth that cannot be claimed only experienced. This is difficult to imagine primarily because we fixate ourselves in the throes of winning and losing.

An Active Relationship

Whyte says, “In the pursuit of the self we cannot get there from here. We get there to begin with by stopping” (p. 185).  Stopping is not a passive surrender, but an active relationship. In all true connections, stopping allows us to look at the world as if we have seen it for the first time. Stopping reminds us that everything we strive to keep alive, keep permanent, keep secure, is simply a pit stop along the way. We ourselves are impermanent beings. To act in fear is to act as if we and our surface selves are immortal.

Tearing Down the Scaffolding

Why do we avoid intimacy with our relationship with the self?  Because it means facing all the lies that scaffold who we think we are. Everything we work so hard to be in the relationship with the self must undergo the natural decay that accompanies our mortality. We look to the youthful hope that can ever drive us onward as we simultaneously learn the beauty in the surrender of the versions of life we claim as right.

Welcoming Loss As Growth

I remind clients often, and as I write this I remind myself that our work is not to gain but to lose. Our work is to strive and to welcome loss as growth. This week we come to the threshold between taking action and stopping to notice the withering leaves. What is dying must be embraced and what grows must first be planted. How can we support each other this week sorting the seeds of this surface self and the truest constancy of being?

I close with my favorite verse of the Tao Te Ching:

Twenty Two:

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds.

When the ancient Masters said,
“If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,”
they weren’t using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.