Lately, I’ve been recognizing how thoroughly invaluable we all are to each other along our journey of becoming the true beings that we were meant to be. We play critical roles in helping each other to believe in ourselves and come to know our own value. Almost always our own worst critic, without others in our lives who help us to navigate this beautiful path of being a human being, that critical voice can win out, precluding our ability to step into the light of our true selves.
The greatest gift we give to one another is the support needed to help us to see our own beauty and worth. Although we enter this world as uniquely perfect and magnificent beings, over time we internalize the oft-subconscious belief that we are somehow inherently faulty. Unfortunately, humans seem to have a knack of doubting our own self worth, beauty and value. This doubt has an uncanny aptitude for interfering with our ability to live a life in a manner reflective of our true value. Without belief in ourselves and our inherent value, we end up falling short. We need mirrors, human mirrors, that reflect to us the beliefs and understandings that we all too often struggle to integrate.
We Need Each Other
The erroneous perception that we are somehow faulty is a sheer-walled pit difficult to clamber out of on our own. To grow and transcend the boundaries of our souls, circumscribed by a lifetime of disappointments, perceived failings and insults to our being, it is essential to have meaningful connection with and basic loving support from others. Loving support, when offered sincerely and generously, applies a salve of self-worth to our wounds of doubt, allowing them to heal.
Being in this very human body can be challenging. Being in this very human mind can at times be excruciatingly so. When we are truly loved and supported, we can begin to feel our own self worth and value in a way that had otherwise been difficult to know. The logic goes, although this is anything but a logical thought process, “If this person values me despite all the reasons I may believe that I am unworthy, there must be something here of value.” It is a knowing that enters the soul through the heart. When love and support flows from one to another without condition, the wounds of self-doubt of the receiver of that love begin to heal. I have personally known the impact of that kind of love and I have seen the impact of that love from me upon others. It is an impact which cannot really be overstated. One’s soul, in the bath of that love and unconditional acceptance, can rest more easily and trust in it’s own value and worthiness. This reminds me of the card below from my mother which I recently ran across. She wrote this before her cancer diagnosis about 6 months before she died back in 1998. I can promise you, the love of others really does matter.
When people do friendship, relationship, mentorship, teaching or parenting well, they provide to the other an “essential mirroring,” seeing others with a compassionate eye and relating to them in full recognition of their inherent perfection and worthiness. Everyone on this path is simply human. Making mistakes and falling short are indelible qualities of being a human being.
Support is not Blind, it is Real
When our goal is to truly awaken and live a life aligned with one’s truth, the most important component of support is how well it points someone in the direction of discovering their true essential being. Anyone can provide support by saying what the other person wants to hear. “You’re right, that guy really is a schmuck” can be supportive, but if there are deeper truths to be understood, questions such as “is there a pattern here for you to be aware of?” or “how did this relationship help you to become more of the person that you would like to be?” can be much more beneficial. True essential support always wants the other to know and discover their own truth. There are never right or wrong answers, just movement toward the truth of whatever is ready to be known.
It can be easy enough to see someone and say “Hey, how you doing?” Having people in your life who are willing and able to say, “No, really, how are you? What’s really going on?” is not only a balm which can cure a sense of separateness, but it is also real support for us to discover more about who we truly are. Again, no right answers are required, simply the truth in whatever form that wants to take.
We Need Help in Seeing the Truth of Our Own Beauty
I’m firmly of the belief that everyone is beautiful, even though they may not have yet fully manifested that beauty or come to realize it for themselves. In my opinion, there is no force greater for positive change in the world than the reflection of beauty and value back to each other. As these reflections help to erase our self-doubts, we come to recognize the very truth of our value. The more we integrate an understanding of our own value, the more we are liberated to move forward and confidently share our talents and contributions with the world.
“It never hurts to think the best of someone, they often act the better because of it.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Sources of Support
Support can come from friends, lovers, family members, therapists, teachers, or just about anybody really, even the person sitting next to you on the bus. I am remembering my dear now-deceased friend Dorrwin Jones in San Francisco, who was never shy to share a compliment. “That’s such a lovely color on you,” he’d remark to a lavendar-clad elderly woman waiting at a light in Northbeach to cross the street. “Thank you, you’ve done such a wonderful and professional job,” he’d say to our waiter at Delancey Street, a restaurant which at the time was staffed with recovering heroin addicts. His fondness for me and endless positive reflections helped form me as well. As the founder of Meals on Wheels in San Francisco and the executive director of the first African American Senior Center in San Francisco, I’m sure he lauded tens of thousands of encouraging reflections upon others.
No matter the source, healthy and helpful support has the quality of holding others in a beneficial light and reflecting back what is helpful and ready to be known. The venerable Thai monk and teacher Ajahn Chah was known to say, “Everyone is perfect exactly as they are,” and then, after a pause, add “but there is room for improvement.” Ideal support works under that understanding. It sees the other as inherently perfect, yet supports them in the realization of their yet to be discovered understandings and capacities.
Teachers and Beacons
Some of the best support can come from spiritual teachers. In my opinion, the best spiritual teachers have two powerful qualities: Firstly, they have an embodied sense of that which they are teaching so their presence is an unmistakeable underscoring to their words. Secondly, powerful teachers don’t hide their humanness. Their heart is on display for all to see.
Sometimes the best guide comes in the form of a bright beacon, a person with a warm guiding presence that simply embodies the very human qualities of love and presence that we desire to cultivate within ourselves. They help us by their very being to illuminate something that is true within us as well. It’s enlightenment by osmosis, where simply being in the presence of a wonderful being gives us a taste of their qualities within ourselves. Mooji, in whose presence and love I’ve been blessed to bask a few different times in India is one such teacher/beacon I’ve come to greatly respect and appreciate. His generous loving spirit is his most potent tool for transformation.
What Can We Do? The Most Meaningful Support is Sometimes the Most Simple
A smile, a simple kindness, being curious about someone’s experience, listening to someone with full attention, an acknowledgment of appreciation – all of these may be small, but each has an impact on the recipient. They all say the same thing: “you matter and are worthy of attention.” Just the other night I went out for pizza and a beer with a friend and found myself sitting next to a challengingly loud, sincerely drunk man. By the end of the evening, he was thanking me for being his only real friend and I was placing my palm on his heart saying that I see his heart of gold, which I truly did see. As Maya Angelou said, “People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Waking up into genuine self-acceptance and a greater capacity for sharing one’s gifts with the world is a long road fraught with doubts and challenges. Having the support of others and being that support to others is essential in making it all possible.
This path of life is not one where if we work hard enough for long enough, we will someday majestically rise to an exalted state of enlightened perfection. Our most meaningful path is simply one of coming to accept ourselves in all of our glorious humanness and striving to free ourselves from the shackles of perception and identification which bind us in place. The loving, sincere support we provide and receive is the best tool we have for the transformation of our souls. As a wise new friend recently said to me,: “We are all here on this Earth to remember and walk each other Home.”
I couldn’t agree more.