JULY 2010 Newsletter Content
Eckhart Answers a Question on Differences
Q: "My husband holds extremely different political views from mine. He believes in war, guns, Fox News, and Sarah Palin. I do not. How do I constructively handle our differences?"
A: Viewpoints, opinions, and mental positions are all thoughts – the thought says "this is how it is", it is some kind of judgment or perspective on things. To be identified with a mental position is to derive your sense of self from that mental position. It's a substitute identity, form identity, ego – a substitute for your true identity which is formless and has nothing to do with any thought – but is consciousness itself.
This is a good opportunity for not giving up your thoughts – you are not required to watch Fox News, but if he is there watching Fox News, and the sound is there filling the house, you can either ask him to turn it down or close the door, or surrender to what is, or walk out, or ask him to walk out. There are many choices, other than negativity. The main thing is mental positions – to withdraw your identification. You can still have your position, but there's no ‘self' in it anymore – it does not supply your sense of identity. Then you can allow somebody else to have their mental position. Perhaps you can then discover that beyond both your and your husband's mental positions – there is something beyond, where you are not in conflict. Beyond his thoughts and your thoughts – maybe you can find that place.
Your first responsibility is not to identify with a position. Everybody has to practice that one way or another. It's a beautiful practice. It's expressed in Zen. I don't remember who said it, some Zen master said, "Don't seek for the truth – just cease cherishing opinions". And that's enough. Many spiritually inclined people look for the ‘truth' – hopefully at some point within, but first it starts outside. But don't look for the truth, not even within, just stop cherishing opinions. Cherishing, not having. It doesn't say stop having opinions, because that would be difficult – maybe a very advanced practice. Even I have some opinions, about Fox News, and so on – but cherishing means to identify with the opinion, to be in the thought. And then it gives you your sense of "I". Then anybody who has a different or conflicting position becomes a kind of enemy. Then you're trapped in form. This is a very common human condition. Most humans on the planet derive their identity from their thoughts. So the thought is invested with self. Maybe this is another way of speaking about the essential truth of the Buddha, who discovered that this sense of ‘self' is an illusion. You derive your sense of self from form – because every thought is a thought-form. It's an energy field.
If this were your only spiritual practice, it would be enough. If you can try, for example, talking to the questioner, your husband can then become your spiritual teacher because he can continuously remind you not to be identified with mental positions. Then, you don't resist the other person's mental position, because you don't need to – you allow it to be. You can even allow your own mental position to be. If you resist someone else's mental position, you only strengthen it. Try arguing with him about Fox News or Sarah Palin, and you'll see what I mean.
You may find the miracle that it can happen quite easily, that somebody's mental position either weakens or it may even dissolve when it's not resisted – because it needs resistance to strengthen itself, and to gain energy through fighting another. It's quite miraculous to see how it can happen when it's not resisted, when it is allowed: "I know that's what you think, and that's okay".
My story of miraculous healing is one that I've told very few people. Maybe it's because I think that it seems too "out there", or maybe (and more likely), I still struggle to believe that it happened to me, because it doesn't make sense and I can't explain it at a physical level.
In April 2009, I began my second season of pro beach volleyball. The previous year, my partner and I had been extremely successful and so we began the season ranked #1 in the AVP qualifier. I had spent most of the off-season training like crazy for the big year I was predicting. To take my game to the next level, I decided to throw out all of the training methods and principles that had taken me to this place, and replace them with a new training method that I believed had the potential to take me to the top. Looking back on this choice, it seems crazy. What I was doing was working but for some reason, I was worried it wasn't enough.
So April rolled around, and our season was starting in two weeks. I was nervous, excited, unsure, and even though I'd been training like crazy for 7 months, I didn't really feel quite ready. I'm not sure what the missing link was, but I worked harder and harder. I worked so much one week that while in the gym I was doing a really tough workout and something happened in my body. It wasn't much, just this sense that I wasn't in control of it. It was as though I had met with exhaustion. After what I thought was the end of a brutal workout, a coach gave me one more drill to do. I remember having this total repulsion to doing it, which was so unlike me. But I did it anyways, because I thought that's what champions did.
It's probably not too hard to figure out what happened next – and I finished the workout with such acute pain in my left foot that I went home and iced it three times. I woke up and did the same thing, and continued that regime of icing 6-8 times a day for the next three months. Sure, I couldn't walk for the first hour I was awake, but if I was just a little stronger, more committed, and stricter about my diet then it would all be okay, right? I called my injury "a little plantar fasciitis" (based on my internet research) and struggled through three of the most painful and frustrating months of my life, quietly trying remedies like massage and acupuncture to heal myself.
I don't think that anyone can ever understand what long term pain can do to a person's sense of self and their happiness until they go through it. It was a dark time for me, where I felt hopelessly alone, and I alienated myself from my coaches, partner, friends and family because I thought I had disappointed them. I can honestly say that there was not one person that knew what I was going through. To me, injury was weakness and I was doing everything I could to prevent looking that way, including continuing to train nine times a week and play a tournament each weekend.
The following September, after I finally told my mom what was going on, she insisted I come home to see one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country. I found out that I had so many tears in my plantar fascia that the doctors stopped counting. My plantar fascia had literally been tearing itself apart and was 3x the width it should have been as a result of my continuing to play on it. After getting that news, for the first time I allowed myself to truly feel the pain, the numbing, the throbbing in my foot and I cried for hours. Less because of the diagnosis- although of course I knew that my life was about to change significantly. There was this feeling of relief, that there was finally truth around this whole situation that really impacted me. In finding out the truth, I had freedom to be honest about what happened last season, and in some small way, it gave me the opportunity to stopped blaming myself.
This all being said, with the removal of the blame I had put onto myself for having such a rough season, I replaced it with this belief that I deserved the injury. I got very adamant that I SHOULD have gone to a doctor, SHOULD have taken time off at the beginning, and SHOULDN'T have changed my training program. And I believed that because I had done so much damage, the path to health would be a long and steep one. I bought into the prognosis. I was injured. I owned being injured like it was my name – I'm Leah, and I'm injured. And I kept saying it and saying it – mostly to describe why I was back home in Vancouver, why my season had sucked and why I didn't know what was next. Because as soon as I said it I was off the hook and people "understood". It really gave me an opportunity to step back and just let life take me... and take me it did.
I underwent a new therapy starting in October. It was a painful injection of glucose into the site of the tears that stimulates inflammation and healing. By February I had gone through 4 injections and had only a little bit of improvement. I was frustrated and really resigned to the fact that nothing was working. Then, things changed. One day, I woke up unable to move my foot. It was totally numb to the touch, and I could feel nerve damage through the bottom of it. It was the worst it had ever been and within a week I had a new diagnosis – I had re-torn it completely, and had also compressed all of the nerve endings in my foot. I was back at square one.
I'm not sure how to describe the next 24 hours except that it was the closest to depression that I think I am capable of getting to. By myself I cried, yelled, blamed, fought. And when it was all over, I just laid there, in nothingness. It was as if every feeling had been used up and this extreme peace came over me. In this peace, I began creating. I imagined how health would feel, what it looked like, who I had to be to have it. I got this really strong image of a sparkling white light, regenerating and healing my body with every breath in. It was so clear that it felt real, like I was pulling it in from an outside source.
For the next four weeks I was a ghost to the people in my life. I had one thing on my mind, and it was regeneration. Every movement I made I was connected to the feeling of health, every morsel of food I put into my mouth, I imagined giving my body energy to heal, and during workouts, I would picture breathing in white sparkling light that would restore my foot back to health. I can barely remember those four weeks because I was totally in the zone. Nothing could faze me as I was on a mission – and I wasn't attached to a specific result, just who I wanted to be in the process, and what I wanted to feel like. My joy came from noticing what I was able to do in a workout, knowing I had a team of doctors enrolled in my recovery, in finding moments and opportunities to help my body heal just a little bit easier. I had a newfound appreciation and love for myself, and I spent most of the day feeling very grateful. I was especially grateful for the experience of being injured, as crazy as that sounds. I decided and completely believed that I was lucky to have gotten injured. It caused me to take a step back to reflect on why I play volleyball, to have the opportunity to take care of myself (because this injury was just a symptom of me not taking care of myself on a larger scale), and to truly connect with others once again.
I knew that no matter what happened or when I would be healed, I would be okay. And then, at about five weeks, I realized something. I hadn't felt pain in a while. In fact, I couldn't even say when the last time was, as I hadn't been paying attention to that, I had been paying attention to the process and had been so busy creating the feeling of health that I didn't realize that it was already present! A week later I went to the doctor for an ultrasound and injection, and was shocked to read an email later in the day from the doctor that said, "there are no visible signs of a tear". I read and reread it over and over. In six weeks I had completely healed my foot. The impossible was possible.
I think that this quote signifies why my injury continued to persist for as long as it did...
"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future." - Fulton Oursler
The second I let go of the past, and let go of the future, and just totally engaged myself in the moment... in what I could do right NOW, I was healed. Was it the white light I imagined, or the massage, or the physiotherapy? That had something to do with it for sure, but the truth as I know it is that it was about being okay with what is. There was no other way than the way it was, and I appreciated that and worked with it. At the end of the day, it's about gratitude. True, complete gratitude for whatever life brings us. By accepting it all, a path is created where anything is possible.
"If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave."
"Wisdom arises through the simple act of giving someone or something your full attention. Attention is primordial intelligence, consciousness itself. It joins the perceiver and the perceived in a unifying field of awareness. It is the healer of separation."
"Through forgiveness, which essentially means recognizing the insubstantiality of the past and allowing the present moment to be as it is, the miracle of transformation happens not only within but also without."
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