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When you put yourself out there, share your heart and voice with the world, there will inevitably be those who love you, those who hate you and those who just don’t care. Being on the spiritual path, I find this to be an excellent teacher and a perfect ego grinder, because whatever people think of me, it does not matter. Of course, my ego says, I would love everyone to like me. But I have no control over what people think and do, or how people judge. I can only do my best, love as best I can and humbly continue to open to each moment and learn the lessons each one brings. In the end, what matters most is my relationship with the divine, which affects how I treat others and myself. What is essential, lasting and true is that I practice seeing the divine in all, even in those who may not like me.
It is hard to understand the motivation of hate, but in essence, we all have the capacity for it. No one is immune to its seduction. When I am lucidly honest with myself, I can openly say that I have felt it rise in me and take me over. I have felt its burn singe my heart. I have fallen into the indulging thrill and delusional self-importance that it conveniently provides. I have felt pumped up, important and proud through it. And I have also felt immensely alone and in pain because of it.
It is hard when we fall out with someone we once called a friend. It is extra hard to see someone close turn into someone who expresses hatred toward us. Hopefully, we do our best to understand each other, talk about the misunderstandings, heal, make amends and return to love. But without both parties being willing to return to a place of humility, little healing can take place. Walls are built, misunderstandings grow and pain festers. Whether friends or strangers, people who do not like us are still our valuable teachers. They teach us what Amma asks us to embody: “Progress is being made when you can retain evenness of mind in the face of praise and shame, honor and dishonor.”
I recall an encounter that reminds me of this. As I watched spiteful venom come my way from people I had considered friends, I had to take pause and witness the propulsion of pain. I noticed that I did not feel hatred towards them. After I worked through my initial shock and hurt at meeting this kind of dark energy, I found myself watching others hold onto their pain as they seemed to wish it upon others. I noticed that ultimately, it seemed they just wanted to feel loved, but were going about it in an upside-down manner. They were indirectly asking for love through hate, which simultaneously was pushing love away.
In that moment, I understood their suffering. By holding onto and identifying with their pain, the people they were hurting most was themselves. Amma says, “When you harm anyone, you harm everyone, especially your own self.” It was clear they were just in pain, and no amount of painful thoughts from me projected their way was going to help them, or me. I did not want to add more pain to the fabulous job they were already doing to themselves.
Amma advises, “Communication begins when you fully understand the other person's point of view.” What was the other people’s point of view? They were hurting and felt I was the source of that hurt. No apology was helping, no reaching out was received, no healing was of interest. They seemed attached to feeling “right”, hard done by, and wanted to hold onto their sense of hurt. With one party unwilling, there could be no discussion. So their pain continued. But I did not need to hold on. So I walked away and still wish them well. Amma says, “If you cannot speak with love and respect, wait until you can.” In the case of haters, the best option is silence.
The exchange was ultimately a gift, another piece along my path. Whether I am at the top of the electronic charts (where I now have been for many weeks, thank you for your generous support!) or whether people love or hate me, I cannot rest my happiness on other’s opinions. My job is to love, understand and serve each moment as best I can with a sense of receptivity to what it brings.
The deeper gift in that exchange for me is found in Amma’s wise words: “If someone is doing something that you find really offensive, check to see whether you are doing something similar to someone else or to yourself.” People who direct ill will our way can be divine mirrors to ways we may be relating to others or ourselves. In my case, I was reminded of how hard I am on myself, which I have been in the midst of seeing more clearly these past months. I don’t always speak to myself with kindness. I don’t always treat myself with love. I don’t always offer myself compassionate understanding. I can allow my self-confidence to be undermined by an old habit of self-doubt. Through that exchange, further contents of my psyche were stirred for me to see and ultimately release. So thank you, even to those who hate me, because you bring me back to the divine and teach me to love.
This day opens with a clear intention to continue to practice feeling ok being me, regardless of what others think. Because ultimately, I will only love others as well as I love myself. Amma says, “Don't just apologize for hurting someone; make the firm resolve that you will never again do that painful act to anyone.” So my sincere prayer is to continue to learn to care for, befriend, honour, love and be gentle with myself. May I have a rich relationship with the divine and may this inform a loving relationship with self and all beings.
When my grandmother was on her deathbed, I asked her what was the meaning of life. She said to me so wisely: “It is all about being yourself. It is so simple, most people miss it.” I can miss it, get caught up in thinking I “should” be/do/think/act in some other way than what feels most relaxed and myself. My true nature is love. So I learn to relax more deeply into trusting that divine truth. I go continue to allow it to flower within me and simply be, no second-guessing. Trust the arising.
The divine love that Amma shows us is within us all. It is our true nature. The rest is just temporary clouds passing through the pure and vast sky. Sometimes the clouds are dark thunderclouds, like when we meet the energy of hatred. But that has no real lasting power. Pain is perpetuated when we hold on and won’t come back to the reality that our true nature is love. I cannot make someone who is attached to pain treat me with love and respect. But I can love and respect myself and learn to treat everyone that way, without condition. That will bring me the joy and lasting happiness I seek and create the best offering I can bring to the world.
May we all know our divine nature and love!