If It's Broke, Don't Fix It.
'We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.' - Albert Einstein
Help! I can't stop watching Moana. Actually I don't really want your help. I never want to stop watching Moana. In fact if I'm honest what I really want is for us all to go to Washington, make a circle around the White House, and sing 'This is not who you are,' while John Lasseter shines the heart into the Oval Office. By the way, if you haven't seen Moana, a: What? And b: Your spiritual quest is over my friend, because Mr. Lasseter and friends, in their seemingly infinite wisdom, have drawn it, coloured it in and added some lovely songs and a side-kick chicken. I'm not entirely unconvinced in fact that it's not possible to achieve enlightenment by watching it on a loop.
So if you haven't watched it, and you want to watch it, stop reading now because I want to talk about the climax of the movie, a scene which recently climbed into my top 5 alongside Andy escaping from Shawshank and the other Andy giving Woody away to Bonnie...sob.
Here it is in a nutshell. After Maui the demigod has failed in his attempts to fight and defat the big scary lava monster Te Ka, our heroine Moana realises that Te Ka is actually the beautiful goddess Te Fiti whose heart was stolen. But does she just return the heart to remind us that love is the answer to everything? Nope. With the fearlessness of a little girl in possession of the absolute truth, she tells the protective ocean that it can part and, "Let her come to me." Moana then proceeds to remind the molten lava Te Ka as she writhes and crawls menacingly in her direction that her pain is not who she is, it does not define her. "This is not who you are," Moana sings to her. "You know who you are, who you truly are," and only then does she give Te Ka back her heart and break the spell. I'm not doing it justice here, but hopefully you're getting the salient points.
Inside all of us are thousands of Te Ka's. Wounds and untruths, big and small shadowy, fragmented and distorted parts of ourselves. My first meditation teacher called them impressions, and for years in my practice I tried to transcend, fix, or like Maui, defeat them. But it wasn't until I began to practice allowing, feeling, listening to them, accepting them and correctly naming them as 'not who I am,' that they really began to transform. When I stopped needing to be protected and defended against the darkest parts of myself, or to need them to disappear; when I could welcome without judgement and allow them to 'come to me,' only then could I bring compassion and tenderness to those places and ultimately liberate them.
Often these distortions present themselves as loud and dark and insistent, but in the end, the only thing that they ever seem to want is to be allowed to be. To be seen or heard or felt. To be accepted. And when I turn my impartial gaze, ears and heart in their direction and witness them without judgement, it's as if they just lay down, exhausted, relieved to be able to stop having to work so hard to get my attention. They seem to slump into a heap as if their ardous journey of fighting my resistance to them is over and they can finally be at peace. They just needed to be heard, to say their piece, to feel the way they feel, whatever it is.
And these shadowy places never relinquish their hold when being visited or loved with an agenda, because of course that isn't really love. I can speak contrary affirmations to them, others can speak lovingly to me in those places, and yet the only thing that ever seems to liberate them is when I release my need for them to be gone. Unconditional acceptance and unconditional love is the only thing that works. I don't ignore, avoid or deny the darkness, and I don't stare at it or try to get into it to change or fix it. I let it come to me if it wants or needs to, and then I simply and quietly acknowledge it with respect. I feel it, allow it, let it speak if it wants to and then rightly name it as shadow, as not my true self, but without judgement or the need for change. And that's when I get to restore the heart, that's when I can bring in compassion and tenderness to those places, when the agenda for change has been released. That's when the spell breaks.
You'd think once learned, resistance to the process would vanish. But resistance is a lava monster just like the rest. The desire to not acknowledge or feel those parts of self that are let's say 'in the dark', as in without truth, is common to all of us. In every story, the hero first resists the call, it just seems to be part of the human condition. The resistance to meditate for me is always suspicious. More recently I've come to regard it with curiosity. Because I know that it means there's a Te Ka calling and frankly I just don't want to get into my little boat and sail to her, which is another way of saying that I don't want to be in relationship with my whole self, only the comfortable parts of myself that I already like, thanks all the same. And so I notice the resistance, and I smile and nod and say ok, it's ok. I bring compassion and acceptance, and then whad'ya know? I find myself back on the cushion, which is a relief, because if I can't love all of me I'm never going to be able let you do it, and isn't that all any of us wants?