When vigilance becomes hyper-vigilance our hearts close to ourselves, and we must find our way home through humility and forgiveness back to the fresh possibility of what this new moment invites. Recently I received a gem, a deepening in my seeing around how to work inside my own heart with this fine line. What I saw is that the process of resolution and returning to peace here can be incredibly simple, and true healing can come in a moment’s breath.
For me, vigilance is a simple living prayer of love, a sincere desire to serve through the many small gestures and actions of my day, to somehow bring light, to speak truly, to let my heart lead, to humbly extend medicine with my presence. And inside this vigilance there is also a deep commitment to not causing harm or suffering with my words and actions, to not wounding anyone intentionally or even unconsciously. My vigilance is born from a direct knowing of the immense preciousness of life, the dearness of these holy relationships I get to learn from and serve with my attention. I experience an authentic desire to not waste any time indulging senseless fear, pettiness or drama, and a sensitivity to the experience of even subtly withholding my heart from life.
And so, alongside spiritual vigilance lives a sacred discernment: the capacity to track, to notice, to bring awareness to our own shadows, blind-spots, weaknesses, mistakes and shortcomings; to openly notice the moments when it is our unresolved human wounds, rather than our awake hearts, leading the way. There are moments inside the path of parenting where exhaustion or selfishness gets the best of me; moments of impatience, irritation and embarrassing outburst. There are moments in friendship and partnership of neediness, aversion, judgment, projection, or taking my beloved one for granted. There are moments in my professional work of leading from scarcity, arrogance, boredom, or some lazy mask of pretense. How essential it is to be able to discern our right actions from our sloppy ones; the felt distinction between walking our talk and carelessly coming from ego or shadow. This type of skillful awareness is one of the fruits of spiritual maturity, and allows us to humbly learn, to grow and evolve.
And yet for some of us, this sacred discernment can lend itself to a kind of hyper-vigilance of the spiritual super-ego: a rigidity around how we believe we “should” behave, in Truth, and a sense of heartbroken shame in the face of our own undeniable failures. For myself, there are moments when I am haunted in true remorse by my mistakes. My heart feels tight self-disgust to notice where I have let my own vigilance down. Such high standards of integrity and living love I hold myself to, that at times there is not a lot of space for presencing my own inevitable shortcomings; the imperfection and innate messiness within the growing edge of my humanness. And yet of course I see: this very pattern, this way I withhold love and graciousness from myself, is the very place most needing of true healing. This is the very place most desiring a merciful hand of self-compassion, placed warmly on my own tender heart.
I believe for some of us the weight of our mistakes feels too difficult to bear. We fear if we really open to the pain we have caused, our wrongdoings and unconsciousness, it will fully devastate or even kill us. And so a kind of numbness settles in; we lose faith in ourselves and in others. We turn towards addiction, distraction, depression-~ all subtle forms of self-denial and self-hatred-- perpetuating the cycle of mistake and shame.
And herein lies the possibility: in the full, pure willingness to see our mistake, to let the pain of our failure all the way in, to let it break our hearts completely, we are humbled.
Oh humility, true humility, sweet humility is a gift of utmost value. Before it is enacted or extended, as some idea of a way of acting or being, true humility is simply a quiet bow inward, our head bent as we are brought to our knees. True humility is a private gesture of sitting in the core of deficiency; the depth of mistake; the painful seeing of our own imperfection and limitation; our tininess in the face of the vast universe; the young, still-learning child we are when it comes to the fullest realization and embodiment of truth, peace and love.
And so we are humbled, we are humbled. How beautiful. And from this place of true humility there is a real possibility for forgiveness. An invitation to forgive this immense discomfort life brings us to face; the discomfort of being humbled by our own shortcomings; a self-forgiveness for whatever mistakes we’ve made.
We can forgive ourselves, in an instant, in a breath, fully and completely. Not making our mistakes right, not brushing off the truth or reality of our failures. No, our hearts are permanently broken open by our own limitation and imperfection: the pain we may have caused, the mess we might have made. But still we can forgive, and truly we MUST forgive, if we are to allow our life-force to be free again to live in the way we are called to: to love ourselves, one another, and life in the way we are designed to.
And so from this place of forgiveness we can arrive to a fresh moment. A fresh possibility and new moment in which to live our love, to return to the beauty of our vigilance and integrity, to say I’m sorry to whomever we may have failed, to say thank you to all we may have taken for granted, to say I love you, I love you, I love you(!) in all the ways our hearts compel us to. We must not put it off. Right now is the time for resolution.
In a simple moment of true seeing, the length of an in-breath and out-breath, we can fully let in the pain of our mistake. It need not take a lifetime, or a year, or a week, or even a day. In full willingness it need only take a moment. We can let the full pain of our mistake lead us to a bow of true humility, invite essential self-forgiveness, and bring us freshly home to this new moment in which to live our heart’s prayer: to love and be loved, to live and let live, to cherish this holy life we are given, if only for today, to revel in true and humble gratitude for all this life is.
Blessings to us all as we navigate these messy human lives, of love, of loss and grace.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin: may all beings be free. I'm sorry, I thank you, I love you. <3