Accepting ourselves, exactly as we are, is a theme that recurs in my writing–and when I figure out how to do it consistently, I’ll be sure to let you know. In a life that involves so many highs, lows, and struggles to repair the damage caused by the latest ones, I must cling to my spiritual beliefs about the worth of the human soul, the value of consciousness, and the meaning of our fight. I must cling to ideas that go against those of the success-obsessed culture I am living in.
I don’t belong to one religion, but I need regular doses of the spiritual thoughts expressed in the literature of various teachings. I don’t agree with everything Jesus is quoted as saying in the Christian writings–but some phrases speak to me with a powerful and tender voice. I’m not Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist, but I’ve read writings of these traditions. In each, I have found passages that comfort, inspire and support me. I’ve found words that give me that shivery ripple of sensation–that yes, yes, this is right, this is truth to me.
Humility and acknowledgement of our imperfection shows up as a common thread in most traditions. Some language is more conducive to self-blame than others, but there tends to be encouragement to see and admit that we–no matter our striving, hard work, or even obsessively virtuous behavior–are imperfect, have fallen and will fall short of perfection, and thus have a need for grace, change and evolution.
Entering recovery from my addiction is only one of several things in life that have required this admission from me, and I need guidance and grace to make the admission while retaining a sense of self-love. In To Turn Will Be Our Delight I wrote about some of the feelings that come up when I must revisit this awareness.
As I work on minimizing the destructive power of my current bipolar episode and healing the damage I have already done to myself, I need comforting words on this theme. The specific ones that are on my mind come from a Hindu writing called the Bhagavad Gita today. Why? Because they make me feel that my version of God welcomes me as is.
In one section (Chapter XII) of the piece, the god Krishna urges his followers to cling to him with their spirits, keeping their mind and soul devoted to him: “Renouncing self in Me, full of Me, fixed to serve only the highest, night and day musing on Me…” But what’s so wonderful is that Krishna immediately seems to note that this isn’t realistic for humans and says to simply worship him steadfastly if their thoughts can’t sustain such heights. Then he goes further, saying “And, if thou canst not worship steadfastly, work for Me, toil in works pleasing to Me!”
This alone is really cool, reassuring us that our efforts to do good matter, but then Krishna goes still further and gives me my “shiver” words. This god says: “But if in this thy faint heart fails, bring Me thy failure!”
The phrase hit me like a brick the first time I read it, ten years ago. Now, if I focus on it, it spurs an entire speech from my personal idea of God. Words I need desperately.
Love, bring me thy failure too. Hide nothing from me. Give it to me, all of it, every iota of what you are and what you have done, every ounce of longing and hurt. Every low impulse, failed task and dark thought; I desire them as much as your luminous dreams and deeds. I want to read and reread every word of the story of you.
Although I don’t write too often about the specifics of my spiritual frame, it is vitally important to my process and to everything else I write. The need for grace, the noticing of grace, and being thankful for grace are tools I can’t do without in my attempt to live a rich and creative life. My friends, I hope you too have a belief in something that loves you and wants to give you grace. I hope that if you don’t, you will seek it someday. Don’t let anything that truly turns you off in one set of principles drive you away from the general quest for your own scheme of meaning and love.
Today I want to lay my imperfections on the altar created by my experience of divinity: an altar that wants not blood, not painful atonement, but only the one thing I am always equipped to give: my authentic self.