“I think that what underlies all my other fears is the fear that I am not worth loving.”
As her tears fell, I let the room fill with silence and discomfort. The truth is uncomfortable. It needs space to unfold.
What I felt was gratitude. Gratitude that she had the courage to be so vulnerable and gratitude that she had said so neatly what I hear so often in so many other ways.
“I’m too fat/thinny, quiet/loud, impulsive/rigid.”
The root of all our fears is that there is something wrong with us. It is something that cannot be fixed. It is something that cannot be loved. And it is something that in all situations and at all times, we should hide.
I can relate to this fear.
Do you know the story of the scorpion and the turtle? A scorpion sits on the bank of a river that she cannot cross alone. She sees a turtle and asks to hitch a ride.
“Are you crazy?” says the turtle, “You will sting me and I will drown.”
“Why would I do that?” asks the scorpion, “If you drown, I drown.”
The turtle sees this logic and agrees to the ride. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle and they begin to sink.
“Why did you do that?” asked the turtle.
“I can’t help it. I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”
I once told a friend that I was scared that I am the scorpion, that there is something inherently wrong with me, inherently bad and inherently unloveable. She made me this:
I wasn’t always like that. Once I was a young, carefree twenty-something living on the beach with no concern for the future or the past.
I remember a beautiful morning in Miami. I must have been on the way to the store. Or on the way back. It doesn’t matter. I was walking. I wasn’t in a hurry. Maybe I had coffee, maybe I was high. I was just walking.
And suddenly I had an intense realization that I was okay, that life was good, that I didn’t need to do anything to be good, that I just was, that my existence was inherently valuable.
I was overcome with contentedness. It lasted for weeks.
And then I was so excited about this epiphany that I decided to try and figure out where it came from, what kind of philosophy it would connect me to. So I studied. I studied Sartre and Kant and Hegel and Adorno. I went to New York. I went to university. I went to Shambhala. (I was so close.) I went to Louisiana. I went to yoga teacher school. Almost twenty years passed. I just kept going.
Everywhere I went I found words and ideas and teachers that pointed towards the idea, but I never got back the feeling.
Do you know why?
I think I know why. I had a spontaneous experience of my own self worth. For a while, I just lived in it. And I was happy.
And then I tried to cling to it. I tried to study it. I tried to pin its fragile wings down. And like any good manifestation of liberation, it flew away.
I have spent most every moment of most every day since that day trying to get back to that feeling.
I have spent the past ten years trying to teach other people to get to that feeling.
Am I there, yet? Wrong question.
But I’ll still answer it. I’m there sometimes.
I’m there in the soft purr of a cat on my lap on the cusp of an unintended nap. I’m there exhausted and wet sliding off my mat into oblivion. I’m there in poems and in dandelions poking out of cracks in the sidewalk. I’m there when I give up on meditating to rub my dog’s belly. I’m there dancing with Caitlin in the kitchen at noon. I’m there in Led Zeppelin full blast on a sunny day on a bridge.
And as soon as I try to capture that feeling, it eludes me. It will not be tamed. It will not be caged. It cannot be wrested. It can only be rested into.
Chogyam Trungpa says:
“Discovering real goodness comes from appreciating very simple experiences. We are not talking about how good it feels to make a million dollars or finally graduate from college or buy a new house, but we are speaking here of the basic goodness of being alive — which does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our desires. We experience glimpses of goodness all the time, but we often fail to acknowledge them. When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness. When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness. When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air. These events take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness.”
“If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings. We have moments of basic non-aggression and freshness…it is worthwhile to take advantage of these moments…we have an actual connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically, fundamentally good.”
So, then, what’s the point of all this? Is it a pep talk? Yeah kinda. So here it is.
There is nothing wrong with you. You are human. You are capable of great joy and great sorrow. Your heart beats in tandem with the universe. You are one with everything and you are completely alone in your head. I know it can be hard to be there.
But you are good. Not because you do yoga or meditate or do “good things.” You are good because you are.
You are good when you are too drunk to stand and you are good when you accidentally eat a whole cake.
You are good when you walk your dog and when you don’t walk your dog because it’s raining and your dog pees on the floor.
You are good when you lose ten pounds and you are good when you gain thirty. You are good when you look good and when you only slept an hour because there was a Harry Potter marathon.
You are good when you are nice to children and old people. You are good when you wonder why children and old people smell like pee and pinch your nose at them.
I know. Sometimes you want to be different than you are. You will be. You will be different in five minutes and in five days and in five decades. Sometimes you will like the ways that you are different and sometimes you won’t.
You will be hurt and you will hurt people. You will care too much about some things and not at all about others. You will be an asshole sometimes. You will be completely fallible and completely loveable.
You will be loved. You are loved right now. You deserve it. Not because you did anything. Because you are basically good and totally human and love is the name of our game. You win. Everyone wins. Don’t stop playing.
But take a break from chasing. There is nothing to catch. You already have it. You just can’t hold on to it. You can’t hold on to anything that is worth having, including the feeling of being worthwhile. There is no need to try.
Really. It’s okay. You can stop trying now.
If you’d like to take a transformational journey with me, check out Embodied Alchemy.