“We are all cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out”.
The idea of starting a blog has been rolling around in my mind for a while, but I would stall over what to write, how to begin, if I should offer up anything personal or keep it clinical and professional. I knew how privileged I was by my education and training, and I felt a pull to share with others what I knew about navigating life more skilfully. But I kept putting it off, reading more books, researching more articles; constantly filling myself up instead of emptying myself out.
Psychoanalyst Mark Epstein shares a story about someone who’s showing a shabby old pot that was left over from his teacher, saying, “You see what he was saying? You don’t have to shine, you just have to learn to be kind to yourself”.
The world doesn’t need me to blog about what I know, and that isn’t what I need either. In order to be of any real value, I will need to share who I am and the ways in which I am learning to be kind to my shabby and unpolished self.
I don’t feel I am the only one working this out. In my work as a Psychologist, I sense that the patients I sit with all feel that there’s something the matter with them and if they could only find that piece of badness and get rid of their unworthiness, eradicate it in some way, then they could relax and begin to really live. They are hiding behind a space suit self, forgetting the person underneath. The Guru, with his shabby pot, was letting his devotee know that he could drop all that. You don’t have to shine.
I was reading while getting my wavy hair straightened at a salon yesterday, and the irony of a passage by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips was not lost on me: “It is worth wondering what the need to be special prevents us seeing about ourselves-other, that is, than the unfailing transience of our lives; what the need to be special stops us from being”. Who would we be if we didn’t feel so compelled to be something better? Who am I underneath all these layers of polish?
The idea that I didn’t have to shine freed me up enough to write this, and made me feel like I had more space in which to move. And the instruction to be kind is one that seems worth exploring.