Transformation

M.C. Escher, Butterfly

You hurt me years ago;
My wounds bled for years.
Now you are back,
But I am not the same.

In the past, warriors fought by striking the same points that acupuncturists use. One famous swordsman nearly died in a duel in which his opponent attacked him in such a way. After that, the swordsman became a wanderer and tried to renounce the martial life. Years later, his enemy found him and challenged him to duel again. They fought. In the first flurry of blows, the aggressor stepped back in surprise. The swordsman smiled and said, “I trained for twenty years to move my vulnerable spots.” With that, he was finally able to triumph.

Spirituality is a process of inner healing. The wounds of the past can be the greatest obstacles for self-cultivation unless we find them all and heal them. This task can take years, but we must accomplish it.

In many cases, our wounds were inflicted by other people — enemies. This is subtle. Our enemies can be others on the street, or people much more intimate with us : parents, teachers, siblings, lovers, friends.

If we move away from such people and succeed in our practice, they will have no chance to come back in our lives. How can they? We change whatever made us vulnerable in the first place.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
– Joseph Campbell

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.” — Cherrie Moraga

“Whoever undertakes to create soon finds himself engaged in creating himself. Self-transformation and the transformation of others have constituted the radical interest of our century, whether in painting, psychiatry, or political action.” — Harold Rosenberg

“Politics in the United States consists of the struggle between those whose change has been arrested by success or failure, on one side, and those who are still engaged in changing themselves, on the other. Agitators of arrested metamorphosis versus agitators of continued metamorphosis. The former have the advantage of numbers (since most people accept themselves as successes or failures quite early), the latter of vitality and visibility (since self-transformation, though it begins from within, with ideology, religion, drugs, tends to express itself publicly through costume and jargon).”
– Harold Rosenberg

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain but does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part;
But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfil their obligations.
The Tao of heaven is impartial.
It stays with good men all the time.

Tao Te Ching, 79

Ah, this one hits deep today… probably to the very heart of what first led me to the Tao.

I have been hurt three times by good friends stepping out of my life. Two were male friends I had fallen in love with, and was involved way too deeply with for friendship, so I suppose it is understandable that they walked away, although it hurt very much. One was a female friend who walked away after I called her on her gossipping behavior about me and one of the male friends. That was actually the deepest blow. I have few female friends in my life and to lose one was devastating. Plus, with the way I had acted and the way people responded to me, it was simply a very difficult period of life for me. I pretty much fell apart.

The good news when that happens is, you may get a chance to rebuild, and become someone who is put together slightly differently. I wouldn’t say I have really changed, I would say that what is vulnerable about me has changed. I certainly am not vulnerable in the same places. For one thing, medication controls what I discovered was actually a chemical imbalance problem that led to my obsessive behavior about love and friendship. For another, my own personality has integrated to a more complete whole that simply doesn’t need the level of friendship that is important to most people. I don’t need daily involvement with other people to feel I’m a good person, I simply know that I am, and my own company is almost always sufficient. Other people have become a bonus in my life, not a necessity.

I don’t expect those people will ever be in my life again- which was one of my deepest regrets for so long. But then, I realized what I loved about them will always be with me, since in reality, what I loved in them was what they brought out in me and led me to feel. And that, they could never take away. The best things that we love in others are really a part of ourselves, that we hold forever in our hearts and minds. And what we discover is that we have no need to fear others or interacting with them, since what we actually feared was our own fears, not anything they did to us or we did to them. They may still have their fears of people like me, but I’ve moved beyond fear. And that is a wonderful place to be.

Update: This post keeps growing, but I had to add this:

“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I’m feeling most ghost-like, it is your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I’m feeling sad, it’s my consolation. When I’m feeling happy, it’s part of why I feel that way.

If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget, part of who I am will be gone. When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” the good thief said from his cross (Luke 23:42). There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well. ”

Frederick Buechner

Another update: Adding a poem from Personal Tao:

Fire Juggling

Risking everything that I am
to become myself

Juggling balls of fire
where the fire is my own spirit

Transformation is never easy
Watching who you are crumble
While growing into the wonder of something new

– Casey Kochmer