LOTUS OF THE HEART
All is Welcome Here
Living in Love beyond Beliefs
Does sunset sometimes look like the sun's coming up?
Do you know what a faithful love is like?
You're crying. You say you've burned yourself.
But can you think of anyone who's not hazy with smoke?
*Rumi. Trans. Coleman Barks.
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A Catholic sister came to a profound experience that brought her to tears during a Zen retreat. The words that arose from the depth of her being, accompanied by many tears, were "I am innocent".
She was indeed gifted with a glimpse of her 'original nature,' as she was able to experience this realm of the 'holy and blameless' in her practice of silent sitting.
*Ruben L. F. Habito. Living Zen, Loving God. 2004.
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I sat in my chair, disturbed by a sense of failure, a still struggling to be healed of brokenness, feeling guilt. I saw what appeared as my failure again, very personal, and the sight flowed through the mind like a dirty piece of dogged debris that kept returning to travel the same stream, year after year.
I thought, "Here I am, again, feeling this failure". Suddenly, everything changed, for I was introduced to - I did not conjure it up - the reality that I was innocently broken like so many, but not sinful, in the sense that I had been taught in my fundamentalist religious upbringing. Right away, for possibly the first time in my life ~ and just recalling this now brings bliss and thankfulness ~, I rejoiced at Grace showing me my true nature: innocence.
What a relief! and the heart filled with gladness and gratitude. I saw myself as I had never before seen myself. What a gift! A seeing, a knowing, not gotten, given.
*Brian K. Wilcox. In "Light Shines." Feb 28.2008.
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Innocence, our pristine nature, is not after being forgiven or after enlightenment or after liberation, not after anything. Innocence is prior to everything - innocence is original, untouched by time. We do not have to return to a Garden of Eden or move all the way to Nirvana. We cannot reclaim anything lost to be innocent, we cannot get to something in the future to be innocent.
Innocence is our participation in Life. Life Itself is innocent; all kinds of things, gentle and violent happen in the course of life on this Earth, but Life remains untouched by any meanness or goodness. Life is.
Innocent is pure for having no contrast. You cannot even say rightly, "I am innocent for I am not guilty".
* * *
To me, the seeing of innocence is not a mental thing. I do not simply choose to see innocence. So, to see innocence, which is really insight, or in-seeing, is not seeing with the eyes or mind, and this is not a skill we develop. Innocence being seeing is received by Grace and in Grace. Whatever leads up to this insight is different for each of us. Yet, what is true for all of us is when the opening happens, we see as we are given to see, the same truth. At first, we might have infrequent glimpses of innocence, with time, innocence we see everywhere. What we are really seeing is not my innocence, his innocence, her innocence, but innocence.
* * *
The question is, however, "Do you want to see innocence?". That might seem like a weird question. Someone could say, "Of course! doesn't everyone?." Maybe, yet, do not most of us cling to seeing guilt and excluding innocence in others or ourselves, for such we are used to, such validates some sick narrative we have. Like, "I'm just unworthy, after all I've done". Feeling guilty can be a big trip, and may serve a temporary function, after that, it is simply selfish and sickness. In regard to others, we can think, "Well, he really hurt me, so, I have a right to feel this anger toward him." So, the guilt toward the other you cling to clings to you. Now, does that sound sensible?
But if we choose to let go of our clinging to guiltiness, that begins an openness, even if a little crack in the wall, and light can begin to come in. We can choose this before we feel like choosing it. In that spaciousness of willingness to see the innocence in myself, even the person who has most hurt me in this life, Grace begins transforming the story of pain to the story of gratitude. With innocence always comes joy, always appreciation, always the sense of beauty.
But is this really practical, in a world like our world? Is it even safe? Even sane?
* * *
One of the blessings, and one I had to be aware of, when working as a chaplain in corrections was the awareness of this innocence in the men and women behind bars. I was graced to see the innocence in them they could not see in themselves. I was aware, likewise, these men and women were legally guilty of acts that led to incarceration. I did not take that lightly. I learned not to trust them. I learned I could not trust them, for the safety of the entire team I worked with was dependent on not trusting these inmates. So, I learned to appreciate the innocence the inmates each were, yet to take seriously the guilt of their actions and the need of society to be protected from them. So, see, I am not writing about some impractical matter, I am encouraging the embrace of a Grace that can see before what anyone has or has not done, appreciate that, honor that, and live wisely in a world among persons who do some very hurtful things to others, and can to you also. Yet, even if another person cannot see his or her innate innocence, you can choose to, and right there within the brokenness. Even if that person can never acknowledge you do, you have still given a lovely gift to that person. That often has to be enough, it is enough. Maybe, a good place to begin is saying out loud, while thinking of the person who has most hurt you, "I am willing to forgive you. I am willing to see the innocence in you, that you are." And, possibly, to do that for yourself, "I am willing to forgive myself. I am willing to see the innocence in myself, that I am." After all, we are all burned, we are all hazy with smoke. So, we have a choice, don't we?
♥ ♥ ♥
Grace and Peace to All
The Sacred in Me bows to the Sacred in You
*Lotus of the Heart is an interspiritual work of Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Brian is a practicing spiritual contemplative, interspiritual Chaplain, and writer of nonfiction and poetry.
*Move cursor over photos for photographer and photo name.
*These presentations, at times, include adaptation to gender-inclusive language in quotes from other writers.