Throwing Stones

mountain streamReading this short article on Time Ideas got me thinking. Rather than focusing on New Year’s resolutions, the article features five simple things we should all do in 2014. They were all good, but it was #3 that really got my attention;

Radically forgive even cruel people.

As part if my journey to grow personally and spiritually over the past couple of years, I’ve made a point not to hold onto anger. This is aided largely by my realization that it’s expectation that causes anger. We expect things (sometimes without realizing it) of people, they don’t meet our expectations, we feel hurt. Hurt = Anger.

So I made a pact with myself that I would try not to expect things of people. Doing so is like expecting someone to honor the terms of a contract they’ve never seen. Some things have been easy to let go (expecting someone to reciprocate when I do something nice for them, expecting a thank you card, etc.). Others have been hard; expecting loyalty, honesty, respect. Because isn’t everyone entitled to these things?

The answer, of course, is yes. But wanting them and feeling entitled to them is different from EXPECTING them. I deserve to be treated with a certain level of respect — and I want that for my children, too. But I’ve figured out that I can insist on those things for myself without expecting them. It might sound contradictory, but it’s actually pretty simple; If I don’t like the way someone treats me, I can choose to let them go. Not out of anger. Not to teach them a lesson. I can simply choose NOT to nourish their place in my life because I don’t feel good when I’m around them. And I deserve to feel good. Which is still so different from expecting certain things from them. This is way of accepting the reality of a person without judgement or resentment, and then making choices (i.e. whether I want said person to be part of my life) that honor the life I know I deserve.

Anyway, when I searched my heart for lingering anger, petty hurt, long-standing resentment, I was happily surprised to find very little. I felt… LIGHT. It made me feel that all this work I’ve been doing really has made a difference. I’ve come to see anger and resentment and old pain as a handful of rocks. We reach down, picking them up and stuffing them in our pockets along the way, the weight of them growing heavier so gradually we don’t even notice as we add each one. Until one day we are so heavy, so burdened, that we have to sit by the road just to catch our breath.

In contrast, all the positive things in life — light and love and joy — are like a pocketful of feathers. Soft and light. A reminder of all that is beautiful. A gift beyond the things themselves because they not only enable us to move forward weightlessly, but they help to carry us, too, as if we can actually perch on them as they float through the air. And there is always enough to go around, because who wants to keep a beautiful feather stuffed in the recesses of their pockets? Better to let it loose, allow it to drift to someone else who may need it, too.

Today, before my first meditation of the new year, I turned my pockets inside out, looking for any remaining rocks. I found a couple — tiny pebbles worn smooth by my hand. Once I set about it, they were surprisingly easy to vanquish. But instead of throwing them blindly into the water, I took a moment to look at them, to face their weight. I was surprised by how innocuous they were. I think now of all the time I spent ignoring them, letting them rattle around, weighing me down just enough to keep me from feeling free.

Today I threw them out across the water. I’m going to try not to pick up any more this year, but I think I’ll take a look on the first day of each new year anyway, just to be sure.

Dear reader, that is my wish for you in 2014; That you may have empty pockets, a light heart, and plenty of feathers to go around.