Blog by Valerie
Through my first formalised human spiritual teacher Tom Lake, I learnt how to describe a core teaching that defines my path: unconditional love and acceptance. However, English is a challenging language filled with binaries. When I explain my worldview as animist, I am instantly confronted with the binary shadow of inanimate, which is a concept at existential odds with animism and not something I want to retain. Similarly, when reflecting on acceptance, rejection seems to be at odds. How do we conceptually accept rejection when it emerges in our lives, and what do we do with it? We seem to like to talk about boundaries in Western culture lately, which I’ve previously written about. But rejection isn’t always a boundary issue in my experience. Rejection could be a call for healing a part of ourselves we have denied and the need to open ourselves up to change, or it could be used to reject what we are currently accepting and stand for something different. It is this latter definition I will reflect on today.
Experiencing rejection, or the need to reject something or someone, tends to feel unpleasant. Much has been written about gentler speech, saving face, and ‘not taking it personally’, whatever that really means, because all experiences are both personal and universal in my world, and that keeps my sense of self engaged without feeling deflated and inflated in an existential crisis state. Rejection, like feeling or experience, can be approached with curiosity and playfulness. Giving rejection might seem the easier than receiving or witnessing it because it comes with more agency and control, but it isn’t pleasant to know our words or actions are likely to bring up pain in another person, so many of us choose to avoid confrontation. We might reject someone by ‘ghosting’ them and not calling or writing back; or we might say we want to move on and ‘break up’ or otherwise express our need to change the boundaries and dynamics of a relationship.
Internally, when we have rejected a part of our ‘self’, we might need to sit with painful feelings such as anger and mistrust and rebuild a relationship, for example, with an aspect of our inner child who was judged as ‘lazy’ and felt ashamed about it. When we become our own parents, we can teach that part of our self that resting and going slowly is something we value and are sorry they were judged and shamed for it. As we can start enjoying resting and being lazy, we accept and move through feelings of shame and thoughts of judgment and whatever else we took onboard as a child, allowing healing to occur for a wounded part of our self. While accepting our ‘self’ and all these feelings, we are rejecting the previous teaching (lazy = shameful, unworthy, etc.). In this way, we can find ourselves on a path of rejecting what we’ve thought of us as our core self – including culture, identity/self, family/blood, sexuality, etc. (Image from here.)
For me, accepting my self has involved ongoing rejection of foundational teachings and experiences from my childhood and allowing my sense of self to heal and be redefined. The path I was set up on was a literal dead end, tragic and painful. There was no way for me to survive but to accept that for what it was and go on a journey of allowing that old world to self-destruct, land on a solid yet rocky foundation of rubble, and start rebuilding in a better way. I have found that the accept myself/reject past teachings process has become less dramatic and intense over time, at least through my experience, but not necessarily through outsiders’ witnessing of my journey.
When I think about what I was taught and forced to accept to survive as a child: a slave mindset, abusive environment, neglectful family, a community in collective trauma and denial – no wonder I have rejected this world! Something wise and vital inside me knew there was more, and if I could see glimpses of it in my inner world (like in dreams at night, stories my dad told, and in moments of peace in the wilderness), then I knew it could emerge outside of me, and I wanted it. Turns out the path towards that healthful state has involved rejecting a lot of what I don’t want and affirming my faith in a vibrant state of being that I do want. And holding concepts as paradoxes is the best way I’ve found to navigate the trickiness of the English:
To continue walking this path of unconditional love and acceptance I have needed to ongoingly act in ways that affirm how much I love and accept my vitality and that I place trust in the universe/Great Spirit bigger than myself. This has required moving through a lot of shadowy spaces filled with trauma, terror, disgust, pain, denial, betrayal, grief, loss…which has shown me new spaces of beauty, resilience, awe, gratitude. I am in awe, actually, of how far off track my Jewish ancestors were from well-being and how many generations have survived in a state of perpetual intergenerational trauma, and I know they are not unique given what is happening on the planet lately.
Like everything else in the universe, knowledge cannot be created nor destroyed, it can just only change form. Indigenous knowledge ‘destroyed’ or ‘lost’ lives in shadows, the subconscious, and can be re-accessed in meditative/altered/visionary states of being through ceremony and ritual. Recent work done by WISN is a good illustration of this wisdom emerging through dreaming (videos: intro, 1, 2, 3 & 4) before it comes into physical form through us. Accepting the wisdom of such collective dreams helps participants affirm that they are not alone and crazy in what they are seeing and is a step towards rejecting the hellish collective reality most of us are currently navigating. By accepting a nonjudgmental rejection of dis-ease, we celebrate a journey towards vitality and affirm that wellness is both the birthright and natural state of us human beings. These days when I go for something and experience rejection, I feel pain and also excitement, because I know there must be something even better to go for that I didn’t imagine before. (Image from here.)