Wash Yourself of Yourself
Contributed by Hannah Sternberg
“It’s complicated” is something of a joke on Facebook, ever since it was added as a relationship status. Plenty of my friends have used it in jest -- mocking the sense of drama it creates. But the same people, in seriousness, have often come to me privately with relationship problems, trying to explain how all the complications of their lives make their romances difficult, or prevent romance entirely.
Usually my answer is, “It’s not really that complicated.” Because few things really are. Often facts are simple; what is complicated is the process of opening our hearts to that simplicity and understanding the true nature of the people and events that fill our lives -- and the true nature of ourselves.
“It’s complicated” has branched out from romance, to become the universal description of difficult situations. “I’d love to change jobs, but it’s complicated.” “I’d love to meditate more, but it’s complicated.” “I’d love to be closer to my family, but it’s complicated.”
“It’s complicated” represents the strands of personal history, self-identity, fears, resentments, attachments, and desires that we imagine tie us down, and prevent us from becoming the “heirs of our actions.” We imagine, instead, that we are heirs to the actions of others, heirs of circumstance, heirs to a personal history we can’t change, helpless in the face of complication. “I really wish I could pursue inner peace, but...it’s too complicated.”
“Complication” only exists as far as we’re willing to believe in it -- and it only restrains us as much as we’re willing to allow. This doesn’t mean, in the real world, that anything is possible and all obstacles can be overcome. It just means that when we free ourselves from the perception that everything’s “complicated,” our choices become naked, stark -- simple, as they’ve been all along. Every moment is a blank slate when we break the bonds of “complication.”
Simple is difficult. Let’s make it even simpler. Breaking free of your past, your desires, your identities, for the rest of your life is a daunting task -- the word complicated creeps into the edge of sight. But for a single moment, you can choose freedom. In this moment, you are a good and kind person. In this moment, you choose to be compassionate. In this moment, you choose to let go of all those strands that held you down -- strands you realize now were lifelines that you held onto, in fear. Good, that was a wonderful moment! Let’s do it again. Even if you fear you failed in the last moment, the next moment is still a blank slate. This moment is a new opportunity to be kind, generous, loving. Your past mistakes don’t restrain you, but inspire you. Unkindness is replaced with kindness. Uncomplicated.
In meditation, when a thought intrudes, you can forgive yourself and resume with compassion toward all the fidgeters in the room, and kindness toward yourself, because this next moment -- and this one too! -- is a blank slate. Meditation is a practice; and it’s practice for the freedom you can take with you into the rest of the world.
The thirteenth-century poet Rumi wrote, “Be melting snow -- wash yourself of yourself.” Complications are the things that freeze us, that prevent us from washing ourselves of ourselves. Unfreeze, and when you wash yourself of yourself, you see an abundant emptiness -- a fresh start.
Hannah Sternberg is a published novelist and freelance writer, editor, and video/audio tech. She has just released her second novel, Bulfinch, a whimsical tale about a time-traveling knight. Check out her journal for news about the book business, recipes, free short stories, travel tales, and more. http://www.hannahsternberg.com/