So I went as I was to the annual gathering of SoulStream, our dispersed contemplative community. In an afternoon session, Andrea, one of SoulStream’s founding partners, read this quote from Gregory Boyle‘s Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.
You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behaviour is recognised for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.
Andrea let that sink in. Let our imaginations picture ourselves standing with the hopeless people in our lives. Let us imagine how kinship–acceptance, love, and belonging–might succeed success. Let us feel the expansiveness of that divine thought.
Then she said, “Can you stand with yourself that way? What would it be like to offer kinship to yourself?”
I sat quietly with her question, and a thought that was never allowed to be heard took a brave step forward. What if I’m never successful at losing weight? What if I never again enjoy the body I once had? What if I’m never freed from my compulsion to overeat? Can I befriend myself and let that friendship be more dear to me than success?
As I held these questions, I recalled the comment my friend Gail Koombes (right) added to last week’s post. She wrote, “Remember that there is always someone, myself for one, that would love to be your winter weight.” I thought of all the overweight people reading my blog. I wondered if they were thinking: Wow, if she dislikes herself for being fat, what must she think of me?
Well, I’ll tell you. When I think of Gail my heart goes mushy. She’s feisty, fun, compassionate, loyal, and wise. When I see Gail, I see someone beautiful.
“Bella,” a SoulStream partner said to me as we embraced before parting. Bella. He called me beautiful. Another brave thought made its way forward: he sees me the way I see Gail.
As my kin stand with me, I am learning to stand with myself and embrace bella me.
The Lover, God, says to you and me,
hiding in the caves high on the cliff,
hidden here on the mountain,
let me see you,
let me hear your voice.
Your voice is so pleasant,
and you are so beautiful!
—Song of Songs 2:14 (ERV)
At our SoulStream partner gathering, Dave and Shauna Gill of Kaleden, B.C., told me about the ginger snap cookie bake-off they hosted. Shauna said, “The panel of judges was well represented with a father and son who required gluten-free, a chef, Dave, and the fifteen year-old-girl who babysits the kids, cats and chickens for many in this group of neighbours. The judges were blindfolded and subjected to slow, serious tasting with sips of water to cleanse the palate. One woman phoned ahead, needing to know many minute details about the competition. She seemed quite nervous. In the end, it was her gluten-free entry which won that category, and her smile at winning the bottle of wine went from ear to ear. A great time of kinship ensued, and there is more comfort and friendliness that passes between us all whenever we run into each other in the neighbourhood.” I had to ask, “Who won the competition?” “Shauna won the regular snap,” Dave said proudly. “Although the gluten-free one was really good too.”