Monday, May 17, 2010

One Big Mistake

I just came back from listening to Gil's Sunday morning talk, on the value of meeting ourselves fully, including embracing the big mistake(s) in our lives, as a source of compassion and humility. Not dwelling on the past, and beating ourselves up, but rather moving forward, taking appropriate reparative actions with others we may have hurt, and making the necessary changes in ourselves, so that we do not keep on perpetuating the same mistake. Gil's talk was very timely, considering that I have been spending lots of time lately facing my big mistake, up close.

During recent week-long with Gil and Andrea, I encountered a part of myself that I did not expect. Every night, I met her in my dreams. And during the day, I felt the effects of her presence, as I sat with a whirlwind of emotions.  Anxiety, rage, fear, sadness, and grief, taking turn to keep me engaged, in my seat. 'Her' is the puella girl who refuses to grow up.

She has been a part of me, my entire adult life. And although I have known this on an intellectual level, it was not until I dwelled in mindful awareness, for hours on end during the retreat, that I started to actually relate to her in an intimate fashion. I saw her for who she is, a weak feminine presence, who does not believe in herself, and cannot figure out a way of her own.  She has come to rely on male authoritarian figures for her survival, and resents it. Although she may dazzle others with her brilliance, she never stays long enough anywhere, to reap the fruit from her efforts. She has become a burdensome presence in my life, whose detrimental effects are far reaching, both professionally and personally. 

After I came back home from the retreat, I reread Linda Schierse Leonard's chapter on The Eternal Girl, in her book, The Wounded Woman:
Ultimately, what is demanded of the puella in the process of self-transformation is to give up her clinging to girlish dependence, innocence, and powerlessness and to accept the strength which is already there - to really value herself. For if she accepts her power and strength, then her girlish innocence will show itself as youthful, feminine elan and vigor, as the spontaneity and openness to new experience that makes creativity and fruitful relationship possible. 
I really get it now. The time has come, to part with my puella friend. No less than my life, and the happiness of those around me, is at stake. Which brings me back to Gil's original point during his talk on compassion.  There is something incredibly humbling about owning one's big mistake, as I am doing. From Heal Thyself, by Saki Santorelli:
Compassion begins at home, with ourselves. Whether offering or seeking help, we are all wounded and we are all whole. 
Now, tell me, what is your big mistake? What can you learn from it? 


  1. Great post. I think every woman, if not every human can identify with the deep vulnerability that you express. I don't know that I have ever thought of anything in my life as a "mistake", regrettable events perhaps? Or is that just semantics?

    As women there is so much acculturation that causes us to "be nice", to want to be liked rather than being authentic and true to ourselves.

    Something that Tami Simon said at the retreat I just attended really resonated with me. She talked about "entrusting" and said we have to trust that whatever happened or is going to happen in our lives is not wrong, that in some way that perhaps we don't understand, we needed it. As a cancer survivor, this touched me deeply and it hurts, but I get it. There are no mistakes, only opportunities disguised as mistakes.

  2. Hummm, I don't know about that! (Tami Simon's comment, I mean). I do believe in making the best of life circumstances. For instance, I am very grateful for some of the difficult people who have come my way. They have been some of my greatest teachers, unbeknownst to them :)

    And I do subscribe fully to the idea that we make mistakes, sometimes big ones, for which we pay the price later. I guess the Buddha would define it as bad karma in action. Psychological constellations, as the one I describe in my post, are very powerful and can lead one down the wrong way. I know people who have led their entire lives that way, and that is extremely sad.

    This is why choosing the Eightfold path is so important, as it helps shed light on the dark corners of our psyche, and removes the veil of delusion. It certainly is working that way for me. In doing so, there is the opportunity to turn the mistake and the suffering experienced as a result, into another crack into our heart, through which the sweetness of greater compassion can come in.

  3. This is what I love about Buddhist practice. The Buddha said "don't believe me, make it true for yourself." I think there are so many ways to see things and so many forms of the Dharma.

    For me saying there are no mistakes is about acceptance. It doesn't mean we go along leaving a trail of collateral damage, saying well it's okay, there are no mistakes. I think sometimes thinks happen that we can never understand their cause. I think karma comes in here.

    And sometimes things happen and it wakes us up, as your explorations have done. We needed that circumstance to wake up, to be become more compassionate. "When all things ripen" comes to mind. I believe that we cannot by our personal effort alone, make things happen. We are only a part of this great cosmos.

    I am always really impressed with the depth of your personal practice and your willingness to share those tender vulnerable spots with us. I love to talk Dharma and it is fun to explore these ideas with you.
    Thanks for this opportunity, my Dharma friend.

  4. Very much our Dharma exchanges as well! Such food for the heart and mind . . . You an I are on the same wavelengths. I very much appreciate your clarification. Nothing to add :)