In the summer of my 20th year, I went to New York City to study film making at NYU. I was living in the Bowery in a huge artist’s loft. I rented from artist's who had lived there for many years and had never locked their door. The only person, they said, who came in without an invitation was a homeless man on a bitter winter night, who quietly snuck into the kitchen, cooked a dozen eggs and ate them, washed his dishes, and then fell asleep with his head on the counter. When they found him in the morning he said, “Please call the police, so I can have a warm place to sleep tonight.”
There was honestly nothing in the loft worth stealing, except perhaps the wind chimes all across the ceiling made from found objects, that rang sweetly in the noisy street wind flowing east to west through the length of it. So that summer, I learned not to mind the unlocked door, even though at the time the streets in the East Village had become home to countless people struggling with mental instability, recently released from the deregulated hospitals under President Reagan. The man with Turrets syndrome who screamed profanity at me on Broadway several times rattled my confidence, but I stayed there for the whole summer learning that what I feared was not an enemy but was instead an expression of a very serious lack of love and compassion.
There are multiple ways in which our mind is like this too. If we lock our mind off to the world because we are afraid of it, our fear will grow, and we will see others as the enemy, and we will even see parts of ourselves as the enemy. This is where the war begins, why so many people feel that they need guns. Why on a subtle psychological level we feel we need to make ourselves better. We fear and hate the parts of ourselves that don’t live up to the unseen but immensely powerful social forces that tell us to keep our doors locked!
But what if there is no enemy? What if there is no-one to blame or shame? What if our thoughts and our deeds are like the wind blowing the chimes? Sometimes wildly, sometimes utterly still? Yet with flow through all windows and doors. Welcoming any visitor, as long as they are respectful of the space as a place for everyone.
The issue that we are dealing with in our time is that there are people who are so fearful that they are ripping the chimes from the ceiling, locking up the doors, and planning to detonate the world outside the room.
How do we help them to trust that they can open their doors again to being cared for? How do we approach the parts of ourselves that burn with self loathing, and send daggers out at the world for hurting us?
Excerpt from Beth's upcoming book: The Way of the Joyous Warrior.