This time of year - the end of the calendar year - always feels quiet, and sacred, to me. Maybe the holidays, maybe being with family, and this year, like the last two, also feels sacred and precious because things are once again, precarious.
Last week I was wondering about all of that in terms of inter-connection. This week I'm wondering about it in terms of connection to self.
Is it possible to tap into our own inner connection? Is it possible to get a little more connected not only to each other, but also to ourselves? As we do this with one another, seeing each other as beloved, can we also see ourselves the same way?
Hi everyone, this is Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call 331. Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and happy/merry whether you’re celebrating or not.
Chapter 11 of the Dhammapada was, “Old Age,” so last week was about what we leave behind when we go, which is not our wealth but our kindness, our compassion, our generosity, our patience, our wisdom, and the offerings we’ve made in our lives pointing to, understanding, and living into interconnection.
Chapter 12 is called, “Oneself.” If last week and Chapter 11 was about our interconnection, this chapter seems to be about our inner connection: that we want to be connected to ourselves, to the best of ourselves, maybe even to the divine in ourselves. It starts with this verse:
If one knew oneself to be precious, one would guard oneself with care. The sage will watch over herself in any part of the night.
I love the poetry of this. Certainly the verse is a reminder not to let down our guard, our practice: to remember not to slip into selfishness or dispassion.
But I also love the possibility that guarding ourselves from harm is also about guarding ourselves from our own inner critic, from forgetting that we contain multitudes, from forgetting that we have all of the ingredients within ourselves to be loving and compassionate. Guarding ourselves from forgetting we’re connected to ourselves. From forgetting we are not separate from the divine.
Which raises questions for me like, how do we connect to ourselves, to the best of ourselves, to the divine in ourselves? Maybe that’s partly what watching over ourselves means – watching over ourselves as an act of kindness, love, and connection.
And then there’s the idea of “precious.” If one knew oneself to be precious, one would guard oneself with care. How do we acquire the knowledge, the certainty, that we are precious?
Precious, meaning, according to Webster, someone of great value, someone not to be wasted or treated carelessly, someone who is beloved.
When I think of the “beloved” I think of my family, my closest friends, and my teachers. The people I love most in the world. I also think of the gods in all their forms, the prophets, the sages, the lineage-holders. All of these are my beloveds, too.
I don’t necessarily think of myself. Not out of humility or modesty, but because “beloveds” has been a way, for me, of thinking of others.
But the verse says, If one knew oneself to be precious [meaning, beloved], one would guard oneself with care…[and] watch over [one]self in any part of the night.
What is it like to know oneself as beloved? The Song of Songs, in the Old Testament, says, “I am the beloved and the beloved is mine.” The lines are love lines and often engraved in wedding bands. But they also point towards a connection with the divine, as beloved. Not a me/other connection but towards an understanding that we are not separate from our gods, our lineage holders…or the divine.
Rumi seems to concur. One poem in his book, “In the Arms of the Beloved,” says it this way:
You are two hands, two legs, and two eyes,
But if your heart and the Beloved are also two,
what good is that?
You call out, 'I am the lover',
but these are mere words.
If you see lover and Beloved as two,
you either have double vision
or you can't count.
Not separate from one another, not separate from ourselves; we are the beloved and the beloved is us; no double vision because, we can count.
It’s not a selfish perspective, or new-age-y. To the contrary. At least in my experience, only when I remember to look for, and locate, the beloved in myself, can I see him, or her, or them, in others. And can I begin to understand, and just a tiny bit feel into, the sense that I’m not separate. Not separate from others even when I can’t see myself in them at all, and not separate from the parts of myself that don’t reflect my personal self-image, or who I want to be, or project. Even if those others, and even if those parts of myself, seem distasteful, or awful, or even terrifying.
Chapter 12 of the Dhammapada also says,
They who cover themselves with their own corrupt conduct, like a creeper covers a tree, do to themselves what an enemy wishes for them.
We could be doing that: covering ourselves with our own corrupt conduct. In my humble opinion, when I’ve done that it’s made it much harder to connect with myself, with the divine inside.
But we’re not doing that. We’re practicing together, so, we know we’re not separate. And – even if some of us are considering it for the first time – we know that we, ourselves, are beloved. Precious.
Precious: someone not to be wasted but to be trained: trained to love, to care, to be generous, to be patient, to be as wise as we possibly can be. For our own sakes, for the sakes of our loved ones – who are also beloveds – for our clients, and because of our reach, our influence, for the sake of the world.
And also, trained to watch over ourselves in any part of the night. To watch over and locate and nurture that divine, in everyone, including especially ourselves.