Equality, limiting Happiness + thoughts on bad people

Only love is real. Everything else is illusion.
— Theme from A Course in Miracles


There’s a rock formation in Sedona called Chimney Rock. If you look at it one way, it looks like one rock formation sticking up — hence the name — but if you drive just a smidge further down the road and look at it from another aspect, you can see that it’s three rock formations. It’s less of a matter of which vantage point is right and which is wrong, but more of a matter of perspective.

a story

I took a class in college that was held in Pittsburgh’s state penitentiary and sat side-by-side with folks who had life (or very close to life) sentences. People who took others’ lives, intentionally and accidentally. People who manipulated others to do or say things that caused pain. People who were once on Death Row and then were no longer. Even people who were never proven to have done any of that, but were caught up in situations where someone did — Robert Wideman being one such human. 

I remember that there were a lot of folks locked up who applied to be part of this class. Outside of the natural reason to revel in contact with the outs, their excitement tied back to sharing their stories: Journeys from acting on their feelings, arriving at rockbottom, traveling to a worse rockbottom, and back again. We couldn’t talk about their cases, but a common theme amongst the storytelling was using this intellectual forum as a vehicle for self-improvement. All of it contributed to this collective awareness, a palpable sense of equality among all of us on a soul level.

I have never been convicted of a crime, but I spent a good bit of time in my life carrying a belief that past actions made me a bad person and less than. Success in my life challenged that belief, but I still clutched onto it like I security blanket to keep my expectations from swinging too far in one direction. I used situations where I received mostly well-intentioned messages (such as “wow, look at how far you’ve come from the person you were") as reinforcements of the “less than” belief and resigned myself to the guilt and shame that came along as a package deal. In resigning, I held myself back. “I clearly don’t deserve this,” or “this is great now, but there’s no way I can’t maintain this success. I’ve messed up things for myself in the past; I’ll probably do it again.” A wise dude named Gay Hendricks termed this cycle as “upper-limiting.” When we upper-limit, we're saying that we can't be THAT happy. 

Oh, but we can! And we ALL can.

As humans, we avoid things that we don’t want to feel and gravitate towards the things we do want to feel. If we'd like to feel happy, we must give ourselves permission to feel that way. That right there, my friends, is an act of love that has nothing to do with the things we do or have done and more to do with who we are. And if you're saying to yourself something like "how am I  worth it?" or "how am I the same as someone who has done x and y?", skip down to the "takeaway" part of this piece.

When we resign ourselves to an upper-limiting belief, let's ask ourselves: What is it that I can do to feel more the way I want to feel? Do I want to take a class in something I'm interested in and be around like-minded and like-energied folks? Do I want to create something, write, paint, sing, dance, and share that with the world? Do I want to go for a walk? Or do I just want to rest?

a takeaway

Underneath our skin and bones at the bottom of our cells is energy. That's the same for everyone -- from people with life sentences in prison, to me, to you. That’s all we truly are and that's all that truly is around us -- from arctic tundras, to forests, to oceans, to deserts, and everything in between. If all we are is energy and if all energy is love, then that lends us two points:

  1. We are all interconnected, meaning anything can be our teacher.
  2. No one is inherently bad. Our judgements are what call them so.

If we choose to live in love in this world, we choose to recognize our interconnectedness, our inherently good spirit, and that what we do in our lives is a response to our programming and not who we are as humans.