Beads on a String
Our lives are a constant interweaving of the wounds and the resources, the sufferings and victories that when strung together with devotion to ones esteemed path becomes a work of art to be prayed with, beautified with and through which we adorn ourselves and the lives of whom our work touches. It is easy, too easy really, in cultures priding or privileging the wounded healer to focus too entirely on the moments in which we were missed, abused, hurt, or dealt an unlucky hand of sorts. Looking to these places of scathing helps to cultivate interest in how to heal both ourselves and others which is an invaluable contribution. The shadow of this searching for healing out of our wound is that too much time focusing on all the painful beads stringing our lives together is simply only half the picture. We can become fixated in how much we have overcome. I can assure you it is not a contest. The person fixated on how much hurt their family bestowed is as much an emotional sinner as the person in complete denial of any madness they encountered.
Sitting at dinner the other night, my husband said to me “Well your parents must have done plenty of somethings right because you turned out really fine.” Well in fact, my beloved is correct. If I reflect, if I really look back at the truth, I can see not only the bloody gore of emotional upheaval, but I see many beads of both matter-of-fact rightness and easy rhythm as well as sparkling moments of positivity. My parents did a whole lot of things right actually. They took me to the opera from the time I was a little girl. I was raised going to theater and museums. The first snow of every winter my mother and I baked chocolate chip cookies. My father played catch with me in our yard. We had a garden. My mother read to me every night. My dad proofread my papers. I was allowed to apply to any college I wanted. We ate dinner together almost every night.
There are of course plenty of memories that lay in mind far from ideal that have left scar marks on my heart. But lest I forget the many more moments of health and true love my parents bestowed to me in my life. In the face of our very human family flaws there were many more moments of family rhythm, normalcy, congruency, and freedom and love. Enough of these moments got strung together like beads to create a space in which frankly, I really ended up totally fine.
I did not leave unscathed, but then again who does. Frankly, leaving home not hurt is unlikely and I might even guess unnecessary even. For how else do we then feel the call to make things better? How else do we learn to tolerate the pain of being hurt by the things and people we love? The way in which we learn this and the how in which we continue on from those places becomes our medicine, our teachings, our lessons for other down the road. No bead on the string of our life is arbitrarily placed--not when you are endowed to a life of devotion.
Think of a string of mala beads. All one hundred and seven of them plus the last one making one hundred and eight, are strung together with a prayer. Each bead is unto itself individual, but it is connected to all the others for the entirety of the strand. Each bead is momentarily focused on during meditation to keep pace and rhythm, which focuses our attentional muscle toward greater awareness of both higher and deeper states of consciousness. If each bead on the mala of your life is a moment or memory then how will you choose the beads that make the strand? For me, coming out of a school where the culture is to privilege the wound, it is easy to string a slew of disfigured beads together. I could ruminate on those all day. This however feels inaccurate, and it focuses my awareness to encapsulate an energy only in the pattern of get wounded, get healed, repeat. A strand of only the most glamorous memory beads feels equally as inauthentic. It skips some of the essence of why I am meditating and praying anyway. It skips the cuts and scrapes that inspired me to sit down in the first place. The most accurate mala I can fashion from the memory beads of my life are a rich and diverse combination. I must fashion a mala that holds within it beads of memory filled with inherent resource, health, comedy and love.
These strands of beads hold tremendous power for focusing and broadening our awareness. So why then should we focus our life work only out of the instances and memories of the times there was less than (fill in the blank). Let us weave bead after bead with prayer and devotion in such a way that all the health of the things that went just right and all the things that went good enough and all the things that went better than expected are woven into the fabric of our consciousness. The wounded healer has tremendous power--I know this to be true. But the compassionate sees the goodness and wellness right in front of their eyes. If we do not hold this for ourselves the people with whom we work will not learn to hold those moments either.
The mala is the garland of a life we wear made memory-by-memory, moment-by-moment, that is strung together with a devotion to the privileging of life in all its forms. Its beauty does not rest on the glow of each bead individually, but rather the potency of the collected pieces strung together. This is good enough.