What if we could stop running for a change…if we could stop, turn around and look at ourselves? What are we so afraid of?
Last week I tried an experiment. I dreamed up a Homeless Shelter for my thoughts. I made it as beautiful as possible, imagining a warm, cozy home in the center of a forest, complete with a crackling fire whispering from the living room, reading nooks here and there, soft lights, radiant heat in the bathroom floors, a self-respecting kitchen. Everything was inviting, safe, warm and Home. . .for the thoughts that I’ve made homeless all these years.
I had to negotiate with the part of me that said, “If you give these thoughts shelter, they’ll never leave. They’ll take over.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, only by really getting a close intimate look at them could we ever hope to be free. And in this case, freedom meant weathering anything they showed me without flinching, without judgment, without resistance. And eventually feeling compassion for them all.
So, on my cushion, incense burning, candles lit, I waited for the first one to show up. It wasn’t long: Ah yes, she who fantasizes a kaleidoscope of tragedies befalling her, making her the images
undisputed center of attention. I listened carefully. I bore witness without judgment. I offered her a seat at the table. Nobody died. Then came she who wants to order Trump’s assassination. And then, random images of cruelty from stuff I heard on the radio. And fury over tiny indignities. I treated them all the same. I listened, bore witness without judgment, and offered them a seat at the table.
Once word got out, there was a line outside the door, down the path, and well into the thick of the forest. Thoughts that have been spurned for so long they were just stinking hair and shuffling feet, mouths rotting into rusted beards of shame. I identified each one as they entered my Shelter. “Hey there, Self-Loathing…
I see you. Come on in.” He looked at me incredulous, uncertain. “Come in.” I helped him gently inside. He muttered obscenities as I led him to the bathroom, where he eventually showered and changed into the warm, dry clothes waiting for him. He settled in by the fire and started talking. I just listened, I didn’t fix. I didn’t judge.
Another knock at the door. “Judgment! Oh, and I see you brought your sister, Insecurity! Get in here, you two!” (Loving my freedom, I was beginning to lose my fear.) They glared at me. “Come on, group hug.” They were so pent up, it started right there at the door. I listened, I learned, nobody died. I seated them at the dining table (Self Loathing had found his way there), and they began talking together. Before long, the table had ten, twelve,
fifteen guests. Hypocrisy and Unmentionable laughed
appreciatively at something Cowardice said. Depression mumbled
something. There was a beat and the whole table exploded, laughing hard, holding their sides, roaring, gasping, wiping away tears. I bore witness to this, too.
Eventually, when I didn’t resist or engage, they all got bored and left.
My Homeless Shelter is not just a little meditation game. It’s a way to stop running away. It’s a way for me to stop being homeless. Every time I do this, I am a little more comfortable inimages-4 my own skin, in my own house. Try it. Have a summit meeting in your soul. Throw a party in your heart. Invite everyone you’ve
been excluding all these years, all your darkest places—the assholes, the whiners, the liars and cheats. Give them a seat at your table. Bear witness without judgment. Just. Listen. And then…
watch what happens.