I remember hearing this joke once on a Meg Christian and Chris Williamson CD. They said, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice. It seems like a good part of my life I have practiced some very negative feelings and behaviors to the place I have mastered them. I had reached a place where I did not need to practice feeling lack, or doubt, or worry, or having a low self-esteem, or thinking I was stupid or unattractive. I had practiced them so long that I had mastered them.
When I decided that these feelings, attitudes, and behaviors were no longer working for me, I had to go back to the basics and practice love, positivity, confidence, joy, peace, beauty, intelligence. I had to practice believing I had everything I needed to accomplish what I was created to do in my life. I had to practice knowing I was beautiful inside and out. I had to practice believing I was intelligent. I had to practice all these things.
Perhaps the first thing I had to practice was being aware of what I was doing and thinking which was contributing to my growth and what I was doing that was blocking my own evolution. As I became aware of these things, I was able to practice new ways of being which enabled me to grow in my own relationship with myself.
The second thing I focused on practicing was love. I was determined to master loving myself. How could I love others if I could not love myself? I became aware that my potential to love myself had an affect on my capacity to love others. One of the first things I became aware of is that I had to stop abusing myself. Once I ceased abusing myself, it was as if I also ceased giving others permission to abuse me. Abuse is not love. So when I stopped abusing myself (verbally, emotionally, physically, etc.), then I allowed myself to love myself unconditionally. I learned that my love for me has to flow from within and that I have to love myself without obligations or expectations.
As I changed the way I loved myself, I began to change the way I loved others. I began to realize that much of the suffering I had experienced in my relationship to others was related to their not meeting my expectations. So I released them as I realized that was about me. I began practicing not trying to fix things for people. Rather, I began understanding that the same powers instilled in my by the Infinite were the same powers instilled in others. To deny others or myself the ability to tap into those powers was disrespectful, so I began practicing respecting others and myself more.
I found myself thinking about a line from Love Story – love means never having to say you’re sorry. It made me realize that there was a difference between pity and compassion. I can have compassion for others and myself without feeling sorry for others or myself. I became aware that having pity was disrespectful and being disrespectful did not flow from a space of love. I think this lesson really hit home for me about a year ago when my para-transit services were virtually eliminated overnight. I kept hearing people say I feel so sorry for you. It seemed like such a contrast for me to the power, which was flowing from within me speaking up and out and fighting for the right to be treated with human dignity. I began practicing being aware of when I was falling into that space of pity with others and began practicing compassion instead.
A scripture from 1 Corinthians 13 reminded me, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 6 7
This is the kind of love I began practicing, a love that is patient and kind. However, I have also come to realize that part of this love I was working on mastering was also about being responsible. I am responsible for the choices I make in my life. I am responsible for my actions, words, and my body language. So whether something was intentional or not, once I become aware of something unloving I have done, I needed to take responsibility for it.
I have been practicing love for a few years now, not the romantic kind of love, but the love for humanity kind of love. I am not sure I have mastered it to the place of being invited to the Carnegie Hall of love (not that there is one). However, I know that it has transformed my life, my relationship with others, and my ministry.
I have come to realize that not only is love something I am working on mastering in my life; it is what I was created to do in this world. Whether it is my interactions with my students, my clients, my friends, family, or my wife, I strive to be intentional about all that flows from me and through me come from a space of love. I practice the following:
Living and learning about humanity
Oneness with the Infinite
Versatility and virtue in an ever changing world
Eternal search for enlightenment