As far as I’m concerned the only thing we need to renounce is our self-hatred and judgment of ourselves, and our sense of unworthiness, and our sense that we are not worthy of love. This is where we should start. If we could just work with that place a little bit the whole quality of our lives would change.
Krishna Das so beautifully expresses the need to work with that place. But this work is not easy, especially if we’ve experienced a painful break-up, or if we are victims of abuse, or if we carry shame and self-loathing from our childhood. So how do we renounce a sense of unworthiness and access love?
This is in fact the reason I embarked on the spiritual path so many years ago. I wanted an end to my pain—the pain of depression, abuse, fear, and shame. I wanted God to remove my pain and replace the old me with a new and improved version.
But what happened over the course of many years was anything but that. What I experienced was that the more I sought to erase myself and my past the more I was faced with myself. Eventually I got tired of this game, so turned around and faced everything I was trying to avoid. And I realized that all the stuff I had tried to remove was the stuff I need to work with.
My journey has been an awakening of the heart. And this heart has been awakened primarily through pain. I can’t say there was a definitive moment when lightning struck and it all became clear. Rather, it has become increasingly clear to me over the course of many decades, that my pain is not solely my own. By de-personalizing my pain and feeling my pain as the collective pain, my heart gradually softened, and I began to experience the love that had been there all along.
I had been allowing my pain to define me and I had convinced myself that no one could ever love, not with all my scars and wounds and hang-ups and difficulties. But when I translated these so-called deficiencies into empathy it all changed. There was an infinite amount of love within that began healing my emotional, physical, and spiritual wounds. And, rather than seeking love, I wanted to give love; rather than being loved, I wanted to be love.
But of course, the challenging and painful aspects of life have not disappeared! But, the suffering has ceased. The deepest suffering was the belief that I was separated from love, that I had to DONE something to have love disappear and I had to DO something to make love reappear. But none of this is true! I am love. You are love. And I now see my pain, rather than being an impediment to receiving love, as a reminder to hold the collective pain, and to send love to all corners of the earth. And this fills me with more love than I can contain. This is how I learned to work with that place.