Lately, my self-awareness has risen to a whole new level. I swear there’s a little fellow deep inside me rummaging through all my crap and sending it up for me to look at. These “gifts” are about as attractive as the skull in the picture above.
So far, thankfully, rather mundane things are being hurled my way. I noticed I got irritated by a comment, unsettled when someone didn’t agree with me, and frustrated when I took a wrong turn. I hear what I say sometimes and want to take it back. I didn’t remember until we opened our take-out meal in the park that I meant to ask for ketchup.
I notice how each awareness is followed by judgment and disappointment. As my self-awareness increased, so did my discouragement.
Listening to James Finley’s podcast on Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle reminded me that the way to an ever-deepening union with God involves three things: prayer, humility, and self-knowledge. God isn’t inviting us to transcend ourselves but to become ourselves.
This gave me the courage to believe I’m not getting worse. I’m on the right path, and all this self-awareness is supposed to be helpful.
With that in mind, I was able to step back and observe this pattern of noticing, criticizing, and becoming discouraged. I began to wonder what it would be like to offer myself what I offer my directees: compassionate, non-anxious presence. What would it be like to simply notice what I was noticing without labeling it as wrong and something to fix?
I felt a quickening in my heart as I imagined a new spiritual practice evolving. Whenever a new awareness comes, instead of critiquing it, I can name what I notice without judging it as good or bad. I can simply receive what I notice as information about myself.
I remember Valarie Kaur’s Revolutionary Love compass. She invited us to turn to others with wonder. “You are a part of me I do not yet know.” I felt invited to wonder about what I noticed in myself.
As I practiced responding to each new awareness with compassion and curiosity, I began to humbly accept things about myself I don’t like, parts of me that I used to ignore or banish. I began to ask these tender parts what they needed.
Take my propensity to misplace things or forget what I remembered ten seconds ago. Instead of beating myself up about it or brushing it off as no big deal, I can name that this happens quite often and makes life difficult. As I hold this and the sadness it evokes, I wonder what kindness could I offer myself.
My grandson, who is also on the autism spectrum, has the same difficulties. I think about how my daughter gently comes alongside him, going through the checklist of things he needs to take with him before he heads out the door. When I think I don’t need to do that, I end up forgetting something. Self-awareness tells me it would be kind to pause before I leave the house and go through a similar checklist.
God isn’t inviting us to rise above ourselves but to become ourselves and find we are infinitely loved just as we are. I’m a little nervous about what that little fellow is going to send up next, but if I don’t panic (as James Finley calmly says), I might remember to immerse myself in the ocean of God’s love.
I feel so much love over my soul, it is like an Ocean I immerse and lose myself in: it is my vision on earth while waiting for the face-to-face vision in light. [God] is in me, I am in Him. I have only to love Him, to let myself be loved, all the time, through all things: to wake in Love, to move in Love, to sleep in Love, my Soul in His Soul, my heart in His Heart, my eyes in His eyes . . .
–Elizabeth of the Trinity [1880–1906]
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It was a somber Canada Day on Thursday. Canadian flags were half-mast in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves outside Indian residential schools in BC and Saskatchewan. EVERY CHILD MATTERS was boldly painted down the middle of a blocked-off section of Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) was giving out orange shirts with that phrase on it. I was grateful to join the sea of people wearing orange shirts and also grateful for the work of the IRSSS. You can learn more about them here.