“We’re all going to fall. Fall with awareness and acceptance.”
Bryan Kest, Power Yoga
I have walked in it. Laid in it. Twisted and turned in it. Pierced & flogged myself with it. Wrapped myself in a blanket of it and put myself back to bed where I belong. The only place I thought I should belong.
Guilt surfaces when I think I have done or am doing less than my best. For some reason, I think continuing to beat myself up about my “coming short” is supposed to help me feel better. I think throwing my feet at the religion (that tends to be my God) and saying, “Look at what a loser I am. I’m so sorry I’m like this,” is a holy choice. How long am I going to continue to crucify myself for something I can’t help but do?
It dawned on me a couple days ago that what I do in any given moment is the best I can do. If I could do better, I would have.
I think it is why my Dad always said “there is no such things as trying harder.” It used to infuriate me, but now I get it.
I think it is why Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
We are timid to commit to our convictions and passions because we might fail and if we fail the guilt pours in, like the hallway light that blinds me at night when a little kid opens my bedroom door to tell me they can’t sleep alone. Like the tsunami waters that continue to rush in, wave over wave of a force that is destructive and disruptive, unstoppable by man.
Since we fear the commitment (because we fear the inevitable failure), we say, “I’ll try.” It’s our out. I’ll try to be a good mom. I’ll try to eat healthy. I’ll try to exercise. I’ll try to write consistently. I’ll try to love my spouse. But that try is always accompanied by a deep insecurity that we are not enough. “I’ll try” is what we say out loud, but inwardly the “I’ll try” echoes back to our hearts as “you do not have what it takes.” We are looking for a fix. Who can fix me because I am broken, and who wants to play with a broken toy?
I look to the heavens and scream, “God, would you just give me a new game piece? You can’t really expect me to win with this one, can You?!”
Guilt is the gut reaction of my Ego. And by reacting, I only serve to increase the tension I am already feeling. It is my Ego that is offended when I fall on my face. It is my Ego that cares about how my life looks to another. It is my Ego that is annoyed when I can’t finish a workout, an assignment, a project. It is my Ego that is wounded when I can’t do something someone else is doing. It is my Ego that has a childish logic that goes something like this, “Good parents don’t yell. You yelled. You are a bad parent.”
So what if I didn’t react? What if I stayed separate from Ego, stayed out of it entirely, and made “breathing through” my priority. (Does this sound like yoga yet?)
Yesterday I was talking to a couple friends, and in the passion of the moment, I admitted that sometimes I felt like not eating organic food was a determination of my eternal judgment. What I really said was, “I’m probably going to hell because of it.” I could sense that they were a little unnerved by the extreme way in which I presented it. In my mind, I felt my Ego starting to react to that. “You went too far. You shared too much. They think you are crazy. They can’t relate. They don’t understand you. They feel sorry for you. Why do you talk so much?” My Ego was reacting in guilt to the vulnerable way I had used my voice, and my Ego wasn’t going to stand for it. I let the Ego be. Like a little child throwing a tantrum on the floor, I let it pound its fists and scream and turn red-faced. Every now and then it would look up to make sure I was looking. I pretended I wasn’t. Eventually it ran out of steam, and I picked it up and said, “Everything will be okay. We did the best we could. If we’re misunderstood, that is okay too.” I didn’t engage with the Ego’s fury. I just let it run its course apart from me.
For years I’ve been wanting to know how to break free. I realize, I’ve got to stop playing in the mud of my guilt with my Ego. I’ve got to stop stepping in and trying to clean up what the Ego wants to roll in. I’ve just got to let my Ego use up its energy and then calmly gather it up in my arms so we can move on. My Ego is a part of me, but I’m it’s parent, and I don’t have to engage in what I don’t want to. And I won’t engage in this frolicking with guilt because I am aware of this thing called grace and love that conquers all.
You want to be free? You have to realize you are enough, now, today, in this very moment. It’s not a matter of “I will be fixed when…” It’s a matter of I am all I can be right now. It’s not a matter of things will be okay, it is that things already are okay. The dreams you have for your future are actually alive in you today. You are just learning how to call them forth.
When I know that I will love myself even when I fall down, the fall is far less scary and debilitating. It’s also far more easier to get up afterward.
And if you’ve got this covered, the next step is giving other people the space to wrestle their own Ego in the mud. To not harbor guilt on their behalf, holding it out before them as if it is a gentle offering that will help in some way. They need grace to you know.