By means of celebration and patting myself on the back, this is my 1000th blog post. That's a whole lot. And I wrote them all in the past four years or so. Thank you for being here for that. And I'm glad this is the 1000th because I didn't realize until after I wrote it and it's something important to me in my journey as a spiritual "teacher"...helping people make bigger leaps. So without further ado...
I have a friend I lunch with every few months or so. Our lunches easily last four hours or more. We have a lot we can talk to each other about—personally, professionally, philosophically. And even though we talk for hours on end, I always think, "oh, we should have talked about X, Y and Z, but didn't." There's always more to say.
Today was one of those lunches.
Early on in our conversation, we were talking about something in her life and she said "of course I know that in my head, but not..." and she motioned to her heart...her soul...her being. I knew exactly what she was talking about because I've been thinking a lot about the stuff we know in our head, but don't incorporate into our being myself lately.
I think there are times in our personal or spiritual development when we have to take a leap between what we know intellectually and what we embody as a human being. If we don't take the leap, we remain stagnant, forever in a cycle of knowing something intellectually, but somehow being able to incorporate it into our lives. If we do take the leap, we have to leave something—sometimes something we consider valuable—on the other side of the chasm. That's why we often don't take the leap. But if we do take the leap, we can end up with a whole other level of growth compared to some of the baby steps we make.
Let's use forgiveness as an example. Intellectually you know that holding a grudge is toxic. You know your anger isn't doing anything to elicit regret from the other party. You fully agree with the saying "holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." But you Just. Can't. Let. Go.
Part of your inability to let go stems from not acknowledging whatever role you played in the situation (and I'm not talking about people being mugged or raped in regard to taking responsibility, but everything needs to be forgiven if you want to be free of it.) In order to hold on to the anger, it has to be their fault and you have to be the victim. So in order to forgive, you have to let go of the anger, acknowledge the role you played in the development of the situation, and let go of your victimhood. You have to lay all that down and walk away from it. In return, you gain enormous freedom.
But most of us do forgiveness on a case-by-case basis, right? We can forgive our child's rudeness, but can't forgive a friend's rudeness. Or we can forgive that lying, cheating, arse of a husband, but we can't forgive the checker at the Safeway for giving us the wrong change...haha. So letting go of an individual situation is a baby step along the way to forgiveness. But the big leap comes when you stop withholding forgiveness altogether....when you adopt a forgiveness mindset.
This is where people become stuck in their spiritual and personal journeys. They adopt a practice, but only conditionally. And most of us are content to stay there. I mean, why not? We've done most of the work, right? The thing is that the only way to silence the recurring, "I know it intellectually, but can't incorporate it into my heart" frustration that we all feel when we hang on to stuff too long is to let go entirely. To just give up the fight altogether, leave our need for victimhood, our need to be right, our need for an apology, our need to be angry....leave it all on side of the chasm and make the leap, never to encounter it again. Everyone and everything is forgiven before it ever enters your life.
We like to consider ourselves as forgiving people, but the truth is we're people who are capable of forgiving. A forgiving person does it unconditionally. And I think many people WANT to be forgiving, but don't want to lay down their arms and move forward in the "vulnerable" state of forgiveness. I put "vulnerable" in quotes, because forgiveness is really the power position. As long as you fail to forgive, the other person or situation holds the power in your head.
Forgiveness is just one spiritual lesson that requires a leap. In reality, they all do—faith, trust, acceptance, unconditional love, oneness, personal responsibility, conscious action—all of them. And most of us are probably at 50% to 90% completion of any spiritual lesson at any given time, meaning we can forgive half the time. Or 3/4 of the time. Or most of the time. But not all the time. So have we really learned that lesson? Or just part of it?
The leaps come when we abandon our ego needs and leave them across the chasm. Which doesn't mean that things won't still come up. But as West Side Story puts it, "when you're a jet, you're a jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dying day." You surrender to the lesson. And it is HARD. Because when you surrender to the lesson, your life changes. The people around you change. The circumstances that come into your life change. You have to be prepared to leave all of that on the other side.
Say, for example, that you surrender to divine trust. You're probably going to look like a fool to the people you care about, because you take chances with blind faith that you will land on your feet. And to some, that looks reckless. And immature. You're no longer able to wallow in fear or put things off because of it. People might reject you as a flake...or they might reject you because you're less easy to manipulate. But when you leap to divine trust, you leave doubt and fear behind. And you'll eventually meet people who really dig your ability to trust and who don't take advantage of it. That's a pretty good payoff.
There are a lot of spiritual hobbyists out there. There are a lot of spiritual pursuers out there. But only a spiritual warrior is capable of making these leaps from 90% to 100%. At one time or another we may be faced with situations where we see all we have to lose in order to make a leap and we choose to stay put. The same person may come across another opportunity to leap in a different area of their life and make the leap. We're all snowflakes in that regard. And nobody makes every leap, except maybe the Dalai Lama. Who knows?
I write about this today because I think a lot of people, myself included, feel like we've done our work and still eat crap sandwiches in our lives. Not even the Dalai Lama's life is without crap sandwiches...it's not like his country has been taken away from him, his people savagely killed and he's been forced into exile or anything. ;) But the thing is, when you've really done your work and made the leaps, crap sandwiches no longer have power over you. They don't muddle your head. They don't control your mind. They don't compromise your happiness. You think clearer and see life above the din. And you learn things about life and yourself that you can't learn or embody until you make the leap.
So I encourage you and I encourage me to look for places where we can cross a chasm and be done with a certain lesson forever. We see the toxicity of the lesson. We see the role we've played in it. And we've laid down our need for whatever payoff comes from it. Once across the chasm, you need only remind yourself that you've crossed the chasm and can't go back. In fact, you won't even have to look for an opportunity to do this. Chances are you were faced with one today. Or this week. Put it to bed once and for all.