(Originally published in Unity Magazine July/August 2021 edition)
Timing is everything. Memory helps too. I suppose I could’ve chosen another day to write this article other than the day the roofers were installing new shingles, but it was the day and time I had set aside to write, and I forgot it was the day and time they had set aside to roof. So I donned my noise-cancelling headphones, headed to the basement, and attempted to soldier on.
Noise-cancelling headphones “cancel” ambient noises by producing sound waves that are exactly out of phase with the unwanted frequencies. They work best with steady droning sounds, like airplane engine noise. The sharp loud hammering of nails into shingles a couple floors above me? Not so much. I also suppose I could have found another location to work, but thanks to the not-quite-over-yet pandemic, I wasn’t ready to venture into any public workspaces, let alone take the time to find one that was open. So I sat in my chilly basement, becoming increasingly frustrated with the whole situation.
Frustration, it turns out, is the antithesis to flow. Whether it be in-the-moment creating or every-moment Universal abundance, it drags us out of the present moment because we waste time imagining other times and spaces with much more conducive conditions. Like a virus, frustrations tend to replicate quickly. Before we know it, we’re overcome with past, present, and future grievances and irritations. Associated feelings of resentment, anger, and worry soon follow. Every subsequent event and interaction for the day now has the potential to be soured.
Frustrations are anchored by unmet expectations and imprecise interventions. I had envisioned a quiet day of solitude, the habitual and assumed conditions for optimal creativity. Not only was that not happening, but I tried to mitigate the distractions with a device that was not built for such a purpose. Frustrations are a shame catalyst: something must be wrong with me that I couldn’t remember the day’s schedule; now my already mediocre writing will suffer even more and no-one wants to read that.
We have been conditioned, in both spiritual and secular environments, to hurry a fix so that we can escape the discomfort. We tell ourselves it’s about productivity, or denying the outer, or attaining mastery over the circumstances. Some things can’t be bypassed or affirmed away. In spiritual circles we throw the word “Oneness” around a lot, while blissfully ignoring the ongoing divisions within ourselves. Jesus directed us to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We’ve been doing the second part really well, but not necessarily in the way we want to admit. How we have loved our neighbors, how we have treated each other, especially those on the margins, says a lot about how far we still have to go in loving ourselves.
The turnaround begins with a pause of acceptance. Acceptance does not mean we have given tacit approval to the situation. It is an invitation into self awareness. When we pause to accept how we feel about what is happening, regardless of the emotion, we are no longer in conflict with ourselves. Over the years too many of us have judged ourselves for not being spiritual enough because we kept feeling “negative” emotions. Hot take: Emotional regulation precedes spiritual realization. It’s why meditation works. Let’s give ourselves the space and grace to fully feel, accept, and only then, deeply love ourselves to true healing and transformation.