Inner peace the goal, love the pathway
Trying to do things right, from the time I was a child, never worked. It didn't work when I yearned for acceptance from my parents and it did not work as an adolescent, when that hormone-driven need for being part of the tribe shifted to my peers. Then as an adult, the old-habit pattern of trying to get it right flipped on its head and became judgment of others' inability to meet my skewed expectations.
The worst of it was, I couldn't accept myself all that time, because in my eyes I could never really get anything right.
The less I could love myself, the less loveable I felt, and the less I could accept and love other people. That went on for so many years that I took it for granted life was always going to be this way.
One year I ran the education program in a homeless shelter on an island in the Pacific. Each person who entered the shelter sat down with me to schedule programs aimed at teaching them financial independence. Whenever I sat across the table from one of these — men and women in desperate straits, dejected, unlovable, often sick — I saw something of their spirit shining through their eyes. Each had a unique and divine beauty that they themselves were not aware of. As I was privileged to witness the truth of their being, the thought slowly dawned on me that I must have the same inner light. I could see theirs; I just hadn't been able to acknowledge mine.
So one day I answered a firm determination within my heart and soul to address myself on this issue of self-love. I sat myself down, calmed my breathing, closed my eyes, and asked within, 'Am I capable of loving myself?' Yes, I decided. Quietly, I spoke within, 'I love myself.' I watched to see what would happen. A curtain opened before me. I floated in my consciousness into a small room. For a moment I waited, looking for — what? Then Myself appeared floating toward me, in the guise of a dance partner.
My heart fluttered open as we joined in the center of that room — the room that was my heart, as I now understood — and we danced, and danced, in love. And it felt as if it were always so, and always would be.
That moment has expanded into the many moments of a life that has become a joy to me. Self-love, love of others and a growing inner peace that arises naturally when I am no longer in conflict with myself and with others — that has become the tone and texture of my life.
The split that I had earlier experienced separated what I had learned to define as "right" from what was "wrong." Having learned as a child that I was often "wrong," I couldn't bear the thought. Wouldn't it be easier to make the other person "wrong," thereby saving myself? Those black-white conflicts resulted in a deep inner rift. We can all love what's "right," but aren't we to hate, to fight against, what's "wrong," even if it means hating ourselves?
That was my own personal Berlin Wall that could only come down when I felt ready inside myself to begin chipping away at it. Stepping into my deepest inner heart was the final collapse of a system that could not work for me. Since that time, I've realized my true nature is peace, and wholeness, a sense of all being One.
In my experience, as love grows, so does peace, both within myself and in all my outward expressions.
Ashland resident Valerie Muroki practices the healing arts of Jin Shin TARA and Jorei, two forms of energy medicine originated in Japan. She and her partner are CERT volunteers, engage in activities promoting peace and equality, and raise chickens. Contact Valerie Muroki at email@example.com.
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