Satya writes: All week my husband has been on Buddhist business in India.
I had planned a solitary retreat day on Monday. I had it all worked out – virtuous food, no television, reading holy books, gazing wistfully into the distance as I contemplated the great mysteries of life… you know the sort of thing.
Here’s how my retreat day actually looked. Glued to email and Facebook. Far too many muffins. Trashy television (I’m ashamed to tell you what I watched). Agitated. In denial. To bed too late, fizzing with caffeine from all the chocolate I’d guzzled.
Before I went to bed I emailed Kaspa a long confession, detailing the extent of my failure. When I woke in the morning he’d sent me a single line.
“You don’t have to be good.”
We think we do. We think that in order to be acceptable, we need to try harder. Do more spiritual practice. Be nicer. Build up multiple passive income streams. Post more beautiful photos of our beautiful lives on Facebook. Get rid of all those snitty and mean-spirited thoughts. Work out every last psychological tangle. Improve improve improve!
We don’t have to try and be good. We just need to notice what is there, offer it up, and turn towards the light.
We can be curious too – that helps. Oh, I’m eating another muffin. Oh, I seem unable to stop myself from checking my email. What is that about? Does this relate to the dream I had last night where there was garbage covered over with plastic?
What process am I currently engaged in? Where is my soul heading? How can I be kind to it as it transforms? How can I be more patient, more understanding?
Oh, I’m checking email again. There’s a feeling in my stomach too. Is it loneliness?
Let me remind you – real change is slow. Deep down transformation – not the change of affirmations and stuck-on smiles. For it to happen, we need to get out of the way. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. But it’s a great relief. We can hand it all over, and get on with the job in front of us. Do the washing up. Call a friend. Write in your journal. Weed the garden. Chop wood, carry water.
In the meantime, you do not have to be good.
True grace comes when we let go of this endless self-building project and allow the love of the universe to enter us. It’s just there – take your eyes off yourself for a minute and you’ll start to feel it.
Deep bow _/\_
(PS This post is from my archives, but it feels like it could have happened last week! Change is slow… and change has happened.)
(PPS If you’d like to practice letting go, we’ll be offering Writing Ourselves Alive, our self-study e-course, for half price at the end of Feb – watch this space.)
And here is Mary Oliver reading the beautiful poem from which the title of this email is taken. Much gratitude to her, for her luminous and loving presence in the world.