How are you today? I hope this message finds you enjoying the air you are breathing – if nothing more is accessible, this kind of appreciation is very stabilising and beautiful.
I’ve been enjoying a wild ride of transformation – as usual. My life just keeps deepening and deepening. And bringing me into a greater space of loving appreciation of the perfection of the whole, and bringing me deeper into my center, my unshakeable core.
A couple of weeks ago, I had someone staring me in the face, impugning my professional facility, with a good measure of resentment. The circumstances were strained, to say the least. It was startling. I have had very little feedback like this. While I have been pulled up for minor mis-alignments, my professional integrity has rarely been doubted.
I think if some of the things that came to pass had happened a few years ago I would have been sent off into a tailspin. Not this time.
Incredibly, this experience brought me even deeper into centre than before. I could see how upset this person was – and how justified this person felt in the anger – and I just responded with clear listening. I held no part of myself back in that meeting. I was authentic. Nor did I try to defend myself really. There was no need.
Many years ago, I was mindlessly channel surfing at my mom’s house in the States. I was heading to bed but thought I’d watch some vacation-style late night TV. I was just flipping through but I paused on an interview with Oprah Winfrey… just at the moment as she was describing her courtroom epiphany.
In the late 1990’s, Oprah had come forward revealing some harrowing truths about the consumption of meat and the meat industry in the world. As a result, a consortium of cattle ranchers in Texas took her to court, suing her for libel. They claimed that she had acted in the way of conspiring to take them down.
In the interview, she shared that she had really gone through it. Under such accusations, she deeply questioned herself. And she’d felt waves of her unworthiness, and a sense of being to blame, particularly as she prepared to face her day in court. She described how, having suffered abuse as a child, some part of her always felt it was her fault and she was to blame.
Her epiphany came as the opposing council launched into his opening remarks, casting her as a spiteful, manipulative agent of debilitating change, ruining the livelihood of hundreds of people out of sheer craven hunger for power.
She realised that the person they were describing was not her. That person, that intention, that manipulation – nope, that was someone else. It may be that that is how they saw her. But that is not who she is, not how she is showing up, and those were not her motivations. She wasn’t angry anymore. There was nothing to push against. She could let the process take it’s shape, face whatever she had to face, knowing deep inside who she really was.
It was a great moment for her – one in which years of trauma-informed reactions and self-doubt dissolved for good.
When I heard this, is was like dawn illuminating the landscape. I was driven to reflection about all the times I had been falsely accused, or times my intentions had been misunderstood. I also had the adult abused child’s tendency to take the blame on myself – and second-guess myself, sometimes taking it as far as even thinking I must be, truly, underneath it all, this mean-spirited person other people sometimes saw.
Since that night, I have had many moments where this interview came to mind – where it called me to a remembrance of who I am, regardless of how I am being seen.
Each time has been a deepening of my own sense of deep worth.
Often, however, it has spurred a backlash of seeing the other person through my own trauma lens. Which produces a whole other kind of suffering.
The truth as I see it is that we are all seeing the world through the lens of our conditioning – the triumphs and traumas of our past. As long as the traumas are not triggered, mostly how we are being seen ranges from neutral to favorable. But, when those traumas are triggered – we will be seen through a lens darkly. Same goes for how we see other people when we are triggered.
Each time I have faced challenges like this has drawn me into a deeper capacity to see and be with the other person in their stuff, all the while knowing that that stuff has nothing to do with me. I really thought that stuff had to do with me! Actually – not at all. Further, it’s brought me into a deeper awareness of my own stuff – so I can set other people free from the tyranny of my trauma when it comes up.
Each post-event processing has brought me ever more quickly to the place where I can hold a benign distaste for any wrong accusations or mistreatment. This time, it was actually happening in the moment, right while I was being verbally accused and attacked. I was just with it. Very little residue. Just clarity about who I really am. And a total lack of blame for this person’s behaviour. I never stepped out of my awakened sense of relatedness to him.
I am so grateful to all of my teachers – notably Hala Khouri, Jon Hansen, and Pema Chodron – for teaching me about compassion, trauma, and awareness. I am still grateful to Roger Linden for teaching me about how benign my regard can be, even under duress, even with distaste, and how deeply it can set me free. And, of course, to Oprah. Catching that interview was a stroke of grace.