I have a meditation practice that I do every morning. I won’t bore you with the details right now, other than to say it’s super short, super easy, and most real practictioners of meditation would look at my ritual and call it “Meditation for Dummies”. At any rate; this morning, the second my ass hit the ground for my daily meditation, a little voice popped into my head with a very specific literary reference. When the little voice speaks, you gotta listen. I pulled said book off of my shelf, opened to the specified chapter, and read the specified paragraph. I don’t know if this is more for me, or if there is someone out there that needs to hear this, but here it goes:
The book is a collection of very old legends about the culture, wars, and spiritual traditions of people who supposedly lived on the American continent a few thousand years ago. I honestly have no idea if any of it really happened or not, but it also doesn’t matter to me. It’s the ideas in the stories that matter. In this particular story, a man named Enos was out hunting by himself, and started thinking deeply about things his father had taught him through word and example. The specific reference that the little voice told me to look up goes like this: ” I will tell you of the wrestle I had before God before I received a remission of my sins”. Spoiler alert: he lives happily ever after.
“Remission” is an interesting word. In modern society, it’s most often used in reference to cancer, indicating that the cancer is shrinking. Once you’ve got cancer, remission is the best thing you can hope for. You take steps to make your body a place where nasty cells can no longer thrive; the tumor shrinks as the cancerous cells disappear. One of the few beautiful things about cancer is the deep gratitude that flows from the patient and the loved ones when the doctor announces, “You are in remission!” There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you are on the right track.
“Sin” is another interesting word, one we hear almost exclusively at church. I’m not a church going man, so I’m going to define “sin” based on my own life experiences: We all know, on some deep level, who we are and what we want to make our lives into. (Some of us are lost in a fog and have a hard time connecting to that clear vision; that’s another discussion for another day). Sin is any self inflicted distraction that slows us from becoming the biggest, most beautiful, awesome version of ourselves. To continue with the cancer analogy, sin would be like smoking 3 packs a day while also training for the Olympics (Unless you are Michael Phelps).
I don’t believe in “sin” in the churchy sense, nor do I believe that we must supplicate some angry, jealous God that he may forgive us of our “sins”. I’ve lived that paradigm, and it proved to be nothing but snake oil. Here’s the deal:
Here’s what hit me. I struggle a lot with perfectionism syndrome. My life is wildly imperfect, but I also hold myself to a pretty fucking high standard. I am painfully aware of many of the tumors in my life. It can be very easy to just look at the tumors and get really bummed out about them. This little story I read this morning shed some new light: As long as I’m in remission, I can be super stoked about life every day. Even if I just kill 3 cancer cells, metaphorically speaking, that’s win – because I didn’t grow 3 cells – and tomorrow I’ll kill a few more. I think we all need to give ourselves more credit for the progress we are making. And by credit, I mean gratitude. I have found a lot of power in my life when I spend time each day meditating in gratitude for the good things that are happening. I’ll even kick into imagination mode and spend time meditating in gratitude for the things I intend to have in my life, though they may not be present yet. I just pretend they are, and deeply contemplate how awesome they are. To the extent that anything excellent is happening in my life, I attribute it to this practice. Gratitude is emotional chemotherapy. This practice can be very difficult at times. Sometimes it makes you want to puke. Just do your best, and do it every day. It’s been a real force for progress in my life, maybe it will for you, too.
Take a few steps each day to progress out of the shitty situations of your life, even if it’s tiny. Most of all – go into your imagination and imagine sitting in a beautifully decorated, radiantly lit doctor’s office, imagine him walking in with his clipboard, shaking your hand, and saying, “Congratulations!! You are in remission!”