The basic misunderstanding

People tell me, “You’re so positive”. If I’m on the ball, sometimes I explain that what they’re responding to in me is happiness, not positivity, because the two are worlds apart. I also hear people saying things like “I’m striving to be a better person”. This gives me a pain in my heart for them, and for myself. They don’t realise they are already fundamental goodness, already fundamental soundness and perfection.

Here is Pema Chödrön on the matter of this basic misunderstanding …

“The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness and shut-down-ness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, then we would be happy. This is the innocent, naïve misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.”

~ Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving-Kindness

Image: IAMI by Eugenia Loli

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Hiding from pain

This is everywhere in our society, and also in me: the absence of unconditional friendliness towards ourselves

“Some people come to community seeking consolation from the pain of feeling unloved by responding to whatever demands are made of them. Unconsciously there is a thought pattern: ‘If I satisfy your need then you, or the community, or God will be grateful, will appreciate my existence, will love me.’ Ultimately this can never bring true fulfilment or true growth. It is important that we are attentive to this response, so easily disguised by generosity and goodness. We must help each person to live more and more clearly and deeply from an inner confidence of being loved by God just as they are.”

~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p132

Image: Up in the Sky, 1997, Tracey Moffatt

To subscribe to daily thoughts from the publications of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and winner of the Templeton Prize in 2015, go to his website: http://www.jean-vanier.org/en/home

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Our weakness

“Power and strength can separate people, whereas weakness and recognition of weakness and the cry for help, brings people together. When you are weak, you need people. It’s very easy. When you are strong you don’t need people, you can do everything on your own. So, somewhere the weak person calls people together. And when the weak call forth the strong, what happens is they awaken what is most beautiful in a human person – compassion, goodness, openness to another and so on. Our weakness brings people together.”

~ Jean Vanier, from Belonging: The Search for Acceptance

To subscribe to daily thoughts from the publications of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and winner of the Templeton Prize in 2015, go to his website: http://www.jean-vanier.org/en/home

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“I do not need a mask”

Jean Vanier is the founder of the worldwide community called L’Arche (The Ark), in which people with disabilities and their carers live side-by-side.

It was in 1964 that Vanier, a philosopher, discovered, “a world that I didn’t know anything about … I visited psychiatric hospitals, I visited other institutions, and then I discovered that people with disabilities were amongst the people who are the most oppressed in our world.”

He says what happened next was “very simple.”

“I got a house and I took two people from this institution and we just started living together. Of course there were all the, what I’d call the legal things that I had to go through … But it just began because I just felt that people with disabilities were being cruelly treated and not listened to, not seen as having a gift to give to society, and the weak were just being crushed.”

Vanier says people with disabilities are the teachers of those without disabilities, and the following quotation takes up the theme, pointing out how people with disabilities render him the great service of revealing himself to himself. In what way is this a great service? Because it is the path to peace and freedom. Without it, there is no freedom.

“Disabled persons can reveal to me my tenderness. But they can also reveal to me my hardness. They can reveal to me a world of darkness in me and a capacity to hurt that I don’t want to admit and which I don’t want to accept. But the discovery of my wounds, of my own brokenness, is a source of peace if I accept it, because then I do not have to pretend that I am what I am not. I do not need a mask.”

~ Jean Vanier

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