One of the things I often tell Griffin is “We can do hard things.” And I’m so glad he’s embraced it as his own personal motto as well.
What I love about my life is that I’m finding more and more examples of things that were once hard for me that are now easy.
Of course, if you’ve been following me for any time at all, you know I believe that making things easy is almost always about mindset – working with those pesky thoughts until they align with our best selves.
Last week I talked with a client about negative thoughts she was having about herself…thoughts of how she has made so many mistakes and she is always messing things up.
I asked her to consider whether it was the Pain Body that was responsible for those thoughts…not her true self.
Over a decade ago I read a collection of Alice Walker’s essays (unfortunately I can’t remember the title – it was a very slim book, almost a chapbook) that shared a story that’s widely attributed to the African poet Tolba Phanem. It goes like this:
When a woman of the Himba African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until they find The Song of the Child. When the child is born, the community gets together and they sing the child’s song.
There are many other significant milestones when people sing a person’s song, and one of them is when this tribe member commits a crime. The offender is taken to the center of town and the people of the community form a circle around him or her and sing their song.
The tribe recognizes that antisocial behavior is best met not with punishment, but with love and a ritual that recalls the transgressor to his true identity. They believe that when our own true song recalls us to ourselves, we have no desire or need to hurt anyone.
My guess is that you’ve had a similar experience in your own life. You’ve seen that your family or friends know your song—they know the essence that makes you you—and they help you get back to your essential self when you’ve forgotten it.
They remember your beauty when you feel ugly, your wholeness when you feel broken, your innocence when you feel guilty and your purpose when you feel hopeless.
Those who truly love you cannot be fooled by mistakes you’ve made or the dark images of yourself that you’ve shown to others.
As an aside, Eckhart Tolle calls the Pain Body many things in A New Earth; he calls it a psychic parasite, unconsciousness and the ego – and I would add “dark image of yourself you’ve shown others” to that list.
At any rate, I find it truly amazing that a culture would meditate to find the song of a child that unfolds with his/her soul’s journey and then use it to bring the person back to their true identity when they feel most lost.
I have tears in my eyes as I write this. How special and unique that must make the child feel! How loved and treasured that would make anyone feel!
I see two lessons we can take from this story of the African tribe: 1. We must see someone who has transgressed with the eyes of compassion. 2. We must help someone who is struggling by reminding them of their true identity.
Both these lessons require us to act from the deepest and most centered parts of ourselves. To meet anyone who has transgressed—either against us personally or against society at large—with compassion and unconditional love requires an enormous amount of work, but it is possible, and it’s so worth it.
Yes, people can do things that hurt you or society, and I am in no way asking you to condone that hurtful behavior. But you can act to stop the behavior without anger or blame or threats of withholding love.
Think of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. They were motivated to take action against great injustice, and there was no doubt that they felt morally outraged by it. But they never held any anger or negative judgment toward any one person.
They met people not at the level of the mind or the ego because they knew that a person who feels negatively judged will put up all kinds of resistance. They (or their Pain Bodies!) will become more defensive and obstinate, and there will be very little hope for positive transformation.
But when King and Gandhi met transgressors at the level of the heart and the spirit, they found that incredible, even miraculous, transformations were possible.
Love is what changes people’s minds and behaviors, and that is where we need to keep our focus.
The really cool thing is that you don’t even need to tell someone they are doing something bad when they do it. It is enough for you to recognize the bad behavior, the Pain Body in them, and know that that is not who they are.
The Pain Body practically melts when you respond with love and compassion, or at the very least acceptance.
Again, this does not mean you condone the person’s bad behavior, it simply means that you do the higher-level work of loving the person in spite of their behavior.
And really, you can only ask for an apology or atonement from that higher level: otherwise the person will put up resistance and the Pain Body will grow even stronger.
And if it’s you who has transgressed, then strive to reach that higher level as fast as you can. It’s a lot easier to make amends from there. In fact it’s the only place where you can make sincere amends.
So don’t condone bad behavior. But do forgive the person who committed it because having the Pain Body and being unconscious is truly not their fault.
When you do this, you hold out love – which acts as a bridge for them to cross – to leave the Pain Body behind and join you.
If they do not join you because the Pain Body is too strong in them, you will still have done the work necessary to leave your own Pain Body out of the unpleasantness. This will allow you to feel better and help many more people.
As you become more proficient in this practice, you will be of more help to yourself and others than if you had stayed in the place of ego and the Pain Body, where you constantly need to find fault with others and correct their behavior.
Please note: every word I’ve said about seeing any one person with compassion, and withholding negative judgments about any one person, also holds true for seeing yourself with compassion and withholding negative judgment from yourself.
It’s like the Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Remember, every negative thought feeds the Pain Body.
I want you to think of every negative thought as a brick that adds to a wall separating you from the love and affection you deserve – and why would you want to do that??
I’ll go into more detail next week on how to stay at that higher level of love and compassion and how to take the right action from that place.
But until then, remember the Himba, remember your own true song, and remember that everyone under the influence of the Pain Body can get out of it if they can return to love and their authentic selves.