“My work is to challenge myself to become more human: to struggle against dehumanizing beliefs and inhumane practices. I want to cease being at war and instead become a peaceful warrior, an activist of heart and body.” -T. Thorn Coyle
We are all struggling (or perhaps aspiring, thriving, seeking–or perhaps all of these and still more) to be more human. All on a path unique to our hearts, molecules, histories and futures. All trying to figure out this complicated thing called life and learn, over and over again, how to do this with as much grace, compassion and self love as possible. I think of this journey as Life’s Work, the embodied wisdom we seek to birth throughout of lives.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned over the past few years, again and again, is to think well of others. We live in a world that invites us to judge, label, box in, name, define, marginalize, qualify and quantify how we experience people in our lives.
I notice in myself, for example, a growing frustration when I find myself having to wait in line–at the library, bank, grocery store, coffee shop–for even a few minutes. And even if I can laugh at myself in the moment–how acculturated I am to wanting/expecting instant gratification the very moment I decide I want something–I still feel that burning need for immediacy. I notice my judgment when, riding the bus, I see a young mother attending to her phone rather her child, even while also recognizing both how challenging parenthood is, as well as how judgmental society is when it comes to (unrealistic, though no less real) expectations of mothers (and of women in general). I notice the stories I tell myself–my expert projections (and I am very good at this!)–about others, when it is literally impossible for me for me to know someone’s actual personal experience. What a shift in perception, what a gift of kindness, for me to think well of the cashier, to acknowledge the young mother is doing the best she can in the moment to meet her own competing needs, to take responsibility for my own projections rather than weaving a myth of epic proportion about others.
The work of thinking well of others, though both simple and radical, is also the work of self awareness. And, self awareness being what it is, this creates the opportunity, over and over, for me to practice thinking well of myself. This is one of the many ways I can practice being a warrior of peaceful self love.
When I catch myself (which is frequently!) listening to my very bossy inner critique, “you are not worthy, beautiful, kind, smart, right…or…you are judgmental, impatient, false, wrong, ignorant, mean…and on and on,” I remind myself of my capacity to shift how I experience myself and my story of myself.
I can learn from my creative projections and judgments, knowing that each moment of self reflection helps me to understand myself with more intimacy and clarity. I can learn from my brilliant mistakes, knowing that each misstep is both a reminder and opportunity that I have the ability to learn to do things differently. And, moreover, I can actually celebrate! my awesome human imperfections, knowing that these are, after all, the pieces of me that make up my life, my life’s work, and my life’s journey. I can think well of myself, knowing with confidence that I am following my path and that this glorious life will present me with a gazillion opportunities to try again, to practice, to love myself with abandon, to celebrate myself as I am, to think well of myself, and to live my life as a champion on the path of peace, compassion, and love.