I listened to Parker Palmer giving this commencement address to the graduating class at Naropa University, and several times I got goose bumps and shivers. For me, those have become telltale signs that there’s something important and/or very true being shared.
The six suggestions Parker provides on living a life worth exploring are simple. And powerful. So powerful I followed my urge to split this recommendation into six consecutive blog posts. You can read my thoughts on the first, second, third and fourth suggestion here.
The fifth suggestion is: Since suffering as well as joy comes with being human, I urge you to remember this: Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.
As Parker says, violence can be directed inwards as well as outwards. And it’s not the answer, it’s not. Hardest for me has been to stop being violent inwards. Beating myself up, verbally, in the harsh and terrifying inner chatter, that accompanied me for so long. It’s almost weird trying to look back at it. I have a hard time remembering what it sounded like, specifically, because it’s so far from the inner chatter within me right now. My mental chatter has shifted, and as a result. I don’t suffer as much either. It’s like a merry-go-round. I suffer, beat myself up over something, and then suffer more, think I’m a wimp for it, so I beat myself up over it some more…. and so on.
And now. A totally different tone. A gentleness. Towards me. And to think I only realized it was possible to be gentle towards myself around my 35th birthday. (Born in 1972, you do the maths.) When I stopped being harsh on myself (and yes, I do believe that to be a form of violence) something else became possible. Because at that time not only could I could start to take in all of my own feelings, I could also start to take you in. And with that, your suffering no longer scared me (as much anyway). Being less likely to want to thrash out, verbally or physically, at your ways to try to escape your suffering. Understanding it doesn’t say much – if anything – about me, and everything about you.
Me being ok with feelings of suffering (both my own, and yours), those same feelings seem to pass through me quicker and more easily. The rabbit holes of my past used to be so deep it took me forever to get out of them. Now I fall into them, but not as deep, and not for as long. Maybe because I no longer fight desperately to get out of them?