In my last post I offered the first half of a beatitude – Blessed are the truth tellers…

I had no end to that beatitude until I received an email from a friend who had also been on the pilgrimage.

Blessed are the truth tellers, for they will have the truth told to them.

It is a beatitude I will return to over and over again.

What is striking though is that it needed the participation of both of us to create it.

In a sense this beatitude is the symbol of my own journey of the last couple of years. I lead quite a solitary life, but in recent times I have become aware of the terrible lie we have been sold in individualism. We need community; real community.

It is humbling, and perhaps a little humiliating on occasion, to realise just how much I need others.

This beatitude is symbol to me of the humbling end of the spectrum. And it is to this that I cling in hope when I am confronted by those encounters which are more humiliating.

Modern myths

There seems to be a strange idea which has been around for at least a decade, maybe longer, that we aren’t supposed to feel pain. That somehow the goal of life is to get to some Zen place where we can take whatever life throws at us without batting an eyelid.

The more I engage with the real stuff of living the more I think it is a crock of shit.

That kind of philosophy leads to denial of what is real, not engagement. Emotions are useful guides to navigating the world. And they should not rule our actions, but we need to feel.

I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t experience grief when some precious element of my life is removed. I want to experience love, joy, anger, frustration, peace. But I want to get to a space where those emotions, particularly the negative ones, flow through me unimpeded and therefore quickly.

The only way I can think to do that is to pay attention to the areas of my life which are not free. Where is my interior freedom constrained? If there are people I would rather not interact with, how do I come to a place where I can interact and allow the emotion that may beĀ evoked to pass quickly? If there are things I’d rather not do but which are necessary, how do I embrace the task so that it isn’t emotionally demanding.

It is about learning to feel what is real, to accept the emotion and to allow it to pass.

The image in my mind is a water pipe. When strong emotion comes and the pipe is clear, i.e. I have interior freedom, the emotion can be very strong, but it will pass smoothly and quickly through my system. Every area of my life, or relationship which I declare to be ‘off limits’ is an impediment. With every emotional surge, eddy currents are set up and the result is turbulence. The more impediments, the longer and the stronger the turbulence.

Where are the areas of unfreedom in your life?


The things that shape us

A friend of mine made a comment on Facebook earlier this week – ‘It’s far easier to write tragedy that feels important than to write a great happy ending’

It got me thinking about why that is the case. I suspect it may have something to do with the uncomfortable reality that as adults we learn far more through suffering than we do through success.

But that doesn’t mean that we do, in fact, learn more through suffering. It is an active choice. It is not the fact of having suffered that makes us wise – mostly the fact of suffering just makes us bitter!

Wisdom comes from the distillation of reflection on the experience. It requires a willingness to allow ourselves to be taught; a willingness to see the possibility of our own unconscious complicity or perhaps conscious fault; a willingness to see things from a larger perspective than our own.

And yet there is still more required for true wisdom to emerge – a willingness to let go of sense of identity as ‘sufferer’. We need ultimately to let go of the incident that has shaped us. We need to forgive those who have caused us harm.

It really is only in actually letting go, allowing the emotional tags to fall slack, that we can begin to access the fruit of suffering.

To think that suffering or tragedy is instructional on its own is to entirely miss the point. It is the equivalent of waiting for something to grow from a trash heap. You need to separate out the potential compost from the rubbish, and then you need to plant the seed of hope.