Christians have the seven deadly sins.
Muslims have the nafs.
Buddhists have the negative emanations of the mind.
These are all the dark parts of ourselves that we would like to keep secret, be it anger, selfishness, jealousy, insecurity, violence, shame, or other dark elements to which we are prone.
How do we make peace with those parts of ourselves that we sometimes consider unworthy or unlovable or undeserving?
We take responsibility.
We start by looking closely at ourselves, especially our flaws. We acknowledge them. We accept them. And we work at transforming them. We start by examining and owning our actions, especially those that have had less than desirable outcomes. We start by seeing those parts of ourselves as worthy, lovable, and deserving. We aim for wholeness by integrating the dark and the light in and around us.
Some call the dark side of ourselves “evil.” I call it humanity. Yes, people do terrible things to each other; sometimes they do these things because of their beliefs, and sometimes they’re done in the name of their religion (think Crusades; think jihad). Does this make us evil? No. It makes us human because we chose to act on those dark aspects. Yet, seemingly evil things somehow transform in ways unexpected, and we discover the silver lining.
Spirit calls us to take the path of inner truth. This means taking responsibility for everything that is in us — the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we accept and own our imperfections and our gifts, we embrace our full humanity in all of its complexity. It’s part of the package.
Spirituality is not for wusses. It takes courage. It takes bravery. It takes perseverance, integrity, and guts.
Do you have what it takes?
Jesus was known to hang around characters considered unsavory by society’s standards. He knew people in low places: prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors and the like. Prior to his arrival on the historical scene, ancient Levitical law decreed that people with physical deformities were unfit to enter the Temple; they were seen as unclean in spirit.
To compound the issue, the Old Testament God was portrayed as so strict and so pure that he could not look at evil, nor tolerate it. The entire religious system was based on teaching people how to purify themselves in order to enter into God’s presence. Unless you were a priest, you had no chance.
But Jesus shook things up when he arrived.
People were still considered impure because of their deeds (or misdeeds), their diet (pork was a no-no), their race (think Gentiles), and their gender (women and menstruation). He saw past their imposed imperfections; he recognized the divine in each one of them. And he loved them anyway, no matter what the religious hierarchy said.
He loved unconditionally and he treated the lowly as equals. He called them his brothers and sisters. Not only did he accept these “impure” individuals, he radiated so much love for them that they flocked to him because he made them feel good about themselves. He held them accountable and transformed them through his love, and they changed because of their love for him.
From this day forward, take responsibility for how you perceive yourself and others. Focus on the divine essence within you and begin to recognize it in everyone else.
When I spent time in Nepal, people always greeted me with “Namaste,” accompanied by a slight bow with hands pressed together, palms touching with fingers pointed upward in front of the chest, or heart chakra.
The greeting, from Sanskrit, means “I bow to you.” It is a gesture that represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us. As we bow, we bow to the divine in each other.
I grew up with a similar greeting. My mother, a native of Germany, would always say, “Grüß Gott” to others, meaning, “Greet God,” or, I greet God in you. Roll the “r” when you say it. The umlaut over the “u” makes for a long “u”, and that funny looking symbol that looks like a B is really a double “s.” “Gott” is pronounced “gawt,” not “got.”
Make it a point to see the divine in yourself and in others. Offer the greeting, “Namaste,” or “Grüß Gott” and make note of what happens as a result.
Spirit will be everywhere, inside and out. And you’ll see everyone and everything in whole new light.
Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth. In it, you will find links to each post in this series.
Blessings, Namaste, and Grüß Gott…