Dust in My Eyes
Back in the late sixties I had a friend who went to India looking for a guru. He told me this story when he got back. He wore contact lenses at the time and back in those days contact lenses were made of glass. He described how he took a long dusty train ride to the village where the guru lived and when he got there, so much dust had gotten behind his lenses that his eyes were scratched and he was in an agony of pain. The guru told him to be with the pain, to not fight it or resist it, that resisting pain makes it worse.
I never forgot that story. I had so much emotional pain over so many years that when I could remember, I tried my best to do what the guru instructed. Most of the time I couldn’t stay with it and I did resist it, I did fight it. It was only at moments of great awareness that I could take a breath and try to be with the unbearable. But I didn’t know where to go from there. Okay, I’m with it. Now what? Learning to tolerate pain certainly felt stronger than fighting it or bemoaning it. But it wasn’t enough.
But I do think the guru had good advice. Resisting pain definitely makes it worse and yet being with pain often feels like a superhuman task. I understand now that being with pain is a first step, not an end in itself. I don’t know if my friend’s guru gave him further instruction, but when I found the voice of Soul inside me, it helped me see that being with WHAT IS, whatever that may be, is where the journey begins. It’s the starting place.
My Soul said, ALL PAIN IS SOUL CALLING YOU HOME. This was in itself a novel idea. I truly believed at that time that pain was a sign of failure, of unworthiness and un-lovability. I thought if God really loved me, I wouldn’t be lost in darkness. I wouldn’t be divorced, have hurting kids, or feel so alone. No one had ever said that ALL of what we experience– pain, fear, anxiety, confusion, difficult relationships, blocks in self expression, AND our talents, gifts and strengths—all of it is exactly what we came into this life to embody and transform.
What I learned growing up was exactly the opposite. Don’t let any of your mess show! Your strengths are okay—show those! But as for the messiness — deny, distract, minimize, compensate, overcompensate, stuff it and pretend. And then my Soul spoke and said– this very difficulty, these apparent obstacles, are what you came to transform for God. And this message was given to me with profound Love. I was to learn how to use Fire, the sparks and heat of all the friction in my life, and all the friction, fire and pain in the world around me, to fuel my journey Home to Soul. That’s the road I’m on and I expect be on it for the rest of my life.
One of the most beautiful things I have learned is that I am not on this road for my sake but for our sake—and not because I’m supposed to be selfless, but because we are in this together.
I see so much pain in people everywhere– in people who have it relatively good, people you would never guess are hurting, scared, lonely and lost. And of course I see it in the people who are at the effect of the most flagrantly homicidal and suicidal acts, and I know that pain is in the persecutors, too. Abuse, neglect, poverty, war, discrimination and terrorism are everywhere, even if today my street is quiet and today there is food in my refrigerator and today my grandchildren are safe in their beds.
The dust of human suffering is in my eyes. It is painful to open them, but I am learning to be with it, one little blink at a time. I am learning the next step, which is to convert that suffering, within myself, into whatever are my greatest gifts and give them to the very best of my ability. If that fire of human suffering doesn’t burn me to a crisp, something most essential rises from the flames. If it doesn’t break my heart, it breaks it open.