"Just as muddy water contains clear water within it when the dirt settles out, all our negative tendencies reveal a spark of basic goodness and intelligence at their core." --John Wellman, Toward a Psychology of Awakening
To me, these words are the heart of this book, and the essence of what I have been learning over this past year: For every irritating habitual behavior we try to extinguish, I believe there is a root cause that arises out of basically pure motives. I've often felt that every gift carries a curse, but I now also believe that every curse carries a gift.
And if you can accept this, Welwood says, "psychological work becomes like aikido, the martial art that involves flowing with the attack, rather than against it. By recognizing the deeper positive urge hidden within our ego strategies, we no longer have to treat them as an enemy. After all, the strategies of the ego are all ways of trying to be. They were the best we could do as a child. And they're not all that bad, considering that they were dreamed up by the mind of a child.
Realizing that we did the best we could under the circumstances, and seeing ego as an imitation of the real thing -- an attempt to be ourselves in a world that did not recognize, welcome, or support our being -- helps us have more understanding and compassion for ourselves."
Thinking about that in the context of this image, I am reminded of a story I first told in this blog back in September of 2007. But in case you weren't following me then, I think it bears repeating: I had been sitting in the Sanctuary of St. Joe's Catholic church in Seattle, and I remember looking at an absolutely glorious image in stained glass. There was one piece of glass in the image that really stood out for me: like the image above, it had blues, greens, a trace of purple, a dash of brown to set it off... and I remember staring at that piece of glass and longing -- praying-- desperately for some clarity, and, more specifically, for more innocence and purity of spirit.
When I went over to take a closer look I realized that piece of glass was not actually colored: the artist had covered clear glass with a sort of muddy glaze, and it was only when the light shone through the mud that the glass began to glow with the rich colors I found so appealing.
We are so often ashamed of the muddy bits in our lives. But we fail to realize or acknowledge the many ways in which they enrich our experience, and fail to appreciate the goodness and clarity in which they arose. If we can relax, accept, and understand that our foibles arise from perfectly understandable childhood coping mechanisms, we can learn compassion for ourselves, learn to "go with the flow," and instead of rejecting ourselves find ways to integrate those childhood concerns into a wholeness of being uniquely our own.