"There Is Nothing Wrong With Us"
By Cheri Huber
From Fabric of the Future: Women Visionaries Illuminate the Path to Tomorrow (1998 Conari Press, Edited by M.J. Ryan)
If the ways we have been trying to affect change were going to work, they would have by now. If "changing" and "doing" and "improving" worked, we would be a world of perfected beings living in Utopia, and the idea of publishing a book like this would never have occurred to the folks at Conari Press. But that is clearly not our experience of ourselves and the world. The great majority of us are still struggling to become who and what we believe we should be
Are we really determined to do things differently in the next millennium, or are we going to continue the same tired old ineffective processes, changing only the content to fool ourselves into thinking we are doing something dif-ferent? Will we continue to try to fix ourselves and the world, or will we find the willingness to sit down and be still long enough to see through the illu-sionyes, it is an illusionthat anything needs to be fixed? Will we accept that our beliefs, not the world as it is, is causing our suffering?
In my experience, there is much to be sad about. But I am well aware that something that makes me sad might thrill someone else. What I see as the senseless death and destruction of war, another sees as just and righteous retal-iation. If I believe my view is the correct one, and that those who do not agree are wrong. I am perpetuating the violence just as surely as if I held a gun.
Centuries ago, Zen Master Bunan said, "Die while you are alive and be absolutely dead, then do whatever you want; it's all good." He was talking about dying to our beliefs and assumptions, letting go of our better ideas about how the universe needs to be, and getting really clear that compassion-ate action comes only from being in the present moment, unencumbered by the dictates of conditioned mind.
With these things in mind, I offer the following for your consideration.
We already are that which we are seeking. Every spiritual path tells us this: "That which you are seeking is causing you to seek." "We are God man-ifest in time and eternity." "For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you." But why is this so hard for us to know? To me, it is because the social condi-tioning we receive as children teaches us there is something wrong with us, and that to be loved and accepted we must improve ourselves. We start out just how we are, and then we are changed, fixed, punished, and altered until we become someone who is "appropriate" and "acceptable." Then we are able to fit into a family and a society. Miss Manners(!) said, "We are all born charming, fresh, and spontaneous and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society."
Unless you were raised by wolves, you probably heard at least a few of the following as you were growing up: "Don't do that.... Why don't you ever listen?... Wipe that look off your face.... You shouldn't feel that way.... You should have known better.... You should be ashamed of yourself.... I can't believe you did that.... It serves you right.... What were you thinking of?... The nurses must have dropped you on your head.... I had great hopes for you.... Don't talk back to me.... Do as you are told.... Don't you ever think about anyone else?" Somewhere along the line we conclude there is some-thing wrong with us. What else could we conclude? If there were nothing wrong with us, people would not say those things, would they?
Being intelligent creatures, we soon take over the job of punishing our-selves, punishment being the way to improve so that we can be who and how we should be. We learn the self-improvement process as quickly as possible so we can fix ourselves before anyone else notices we need fixing. As a result, most people grow up with an unshakable belief that the primary reason they are "good" is that they punish themselves when they are "bad." The very thought of not punishing ourselves when we make mistakes, say and do stu-pid things, feel inappropriate feelings, or act "bad," makes us nervous: If I don't punish myself when I do something wrong, what will keep me from doing it again? I might do even worse things!
To this I would say that one process does not lead to another. Punishment does not make us good, punishment makes us punishing. Hating and rejecting ourselves in this moment is not good practice for loving and accepting our-selves in another. Goodness is our inherent nature and punishment is what keeps us from knowing that. We are never going to improve ourselves until we become who we "should" be. If self-improvement worked, it would have by now. Punishment is what keeps us from seeing that there is no one who needs to be punished. It is a learned response, it will never work, and we can let go of it if we are willing.
"But, Cheri, how can I do that?" you might ask. "It's so deep and auto-matic, and it feels like the 'good person' thing to do. I say or do or feel some-thing wrong, I beat myself up to ensure I don't do it again. Swift and sure. It's scary to consider not doing it ... but I guess that's part of the conditioning, too, isn't it?"
Yes, it is. Self-improvement, punishment, and self-hate are survival mech-anisms and feel like "good person" things to do. Isn't that ironic? Isn't that sad? Yet when we beat ourselves up to improve, we are doing the same thing our parents did to us in childhood (and their parents did to them, and so on down the lineno blame here). Again, it didn't work then to make you the person you believe you should be, and it won't work now. This "Build A Bet-ter World Through Hatred" school of thought is doomed to failure from the start.
How can we turn this around? How can we realize that our True Nature is goodness, and that when we stop doing everything else, goodness is what's there? How can we find compassion for all aspects of ourselves? Is there a process that is not just another stab at self-improvement?
In my experience there is a process, the basis of which is meditation. There are other helpful practices and concepts, but meditation brings it all together. Much of the rest of this article describes the process I am talking about, but before going too deeply into that, I want to give some examples of how, as adults, our lack of self-acceptance plays out.