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Before we can begin to be curious about what we are experiencing and bring it the healing of compassion, which is the doorway to our freedom, we need to allow the possibility that our challenges are not here because we have done something wrong. The belief that we are wrong is so deep in our psyche that at first it may be difficult to let in the truth that your challenges are here because they are tailor-made to bring you to awakening.
I am not saying that you haven’t done unskillful things in your life, we all have. But we have a choice in how we relate to our unskillfulness. To judge ourselves keeps us caught in an ongoing prison of struggle. To bring understanding and compassion opens us to the freedom of connection and joy.
In order to make this shift, we need to understand that everyone makes mistakes and everyone judges themselves for doing so. I have worked with people for over 20 years and have never met anyone, including internationally known teachers, who don’t have to work with this feeling that they have done things wrong and thus are wrong. The more I awaken, the more I realize the truth in the Grateful Dead song Scarlet Begonias, “I have seldom been right but I have never been wrong.” Or as I like to say it, “With all of the mistakes you have made, you have never made a mistake.”
How can this be true? Agnes Whistling Elk says, “Everything begins with a circle of motion. Without the positive and negative poles, there would be no movement, there would be no creation. Without your shadow side, your beauty would not exist!” For years I couldn’t allow this truth in. I couldn’t accept that I was made out of both dark and light, strengths and weaknesses. I believed I had proof that I had done wrong and thus I was wrong. It also appeared to me that everybody else had it together and I did not. It was like an oozing wound inside of me that I kept opening up by my attachment to shame.
When I finally saw that I was wounding myself where I was the most wounded, I began the slow opening of my bruised but tender heart. For just this moment, allow in the mercy of realizing that at every step of the way you have done the best you knew how. Let go of the knee jerk reaction of “I could have done better.” And let the healing of compassion in. We are all wounded in some way or another. And when these wounds are brought close to the surface through the ups and downs of life, we all react in unskillful ways. The way out of this morass is to let go of the blame game. As we discover a more compassionate relationship with both our strengths and our weaknesses, the storms of struggle will calm down enough for us to hear the voices of wisdom inside of us that know the path to the healing we are longing for.
Quote: With all of the mistakes you have made, you have never made a mistake.– Mary O’Malley
We have explored the hidden belief that lies nestled in the heart of our struggling minds – the belief that the mistakes we have made in our lives are proof that we are ‘wrong’. This belief causes so much heartache and is a total misperception. Yes, we have all made mistakes, but that doesn’t have to translate into proof that we are ‘wrong’. And yes, we do need to make changes in our lives, but to make them from the belief that we are ‘wrong’ only creates more heartache in our lives. If we can instead see our mistakes and imperfections as a part of being human and recognize that they always come carrying information for our growth, they can become our teachers rather than our jailers.
As Stephen Levine likes to say, “If you take a step down the path of life, you go two feet; if you fall on your face, you go six feet!” I would like to share with you a parable that speaks directly to this:
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.” The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws, but it’s the cracks and flaws that make our lives interesting and rewarding. We need to learn how to be the Chinese woman with ourselves. Are you willing to practice radical self acceptance? Are you willing to say to yourself when self judgment is there, “I am okay just as I am!”? Know that there will be parts of you that will fight this, that will try to prove again that you are not okay. Recognize those voices for what they are, old tapes of self judgment, so you can respond to life rather than reacting from it. If this kind of practice calls to you, there is a wonderful chapter in my first book, Belonging to Life: The Journey of Awakening, called “Disarming the Judger.”
If you don’t have the book and are not interested in purchasing it, email me and I will send you the chapter. It is full of ideas and techniques that have allowed me to move from such deep self hatred that I didn’t want to live, to being a person who can look in the mirror and say, “I love you just the way you are!”As we learn how to see through self judgment, our attention is then freed to be passionately curious about how our life is unfolding so that we can gather all the treasures that are there – both in the easy and the difficult parts of our lives.
Quote: Mistakes and imperfections are a part of being human and always come carrying information for our growth. — Mary O’Malley
Mary O’Malley is a speaker, an author, and a counselor in private practice in Kirkland, Washington. Her work focuses on curiosity, compassion, trust, and the ability to be with whatever is showing up in our lives in a spacious and attentive way. In the early 1970’s, she experienced an awakening where she saw through the struggles of the mind, making contact with the joy and the wonder of being fully awake to Life. Since then she has dedicated her life to inviting others into the healing and the creativity that come from being fully present for Life. Through her organization,Awakening, she has evolved a transformational approach to working with everything that keeps us from being present for our lives. She is also the author of Belonging to Life: The Journey of Awakening and The Gift of Our Compulsions: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Acceptance and Healing.
Mary has taught extensively since the early 1980’s, speaking, leading retreats, doing individual counseling and offering ongoing groups where people can come together to experience the miracle of awakening. Her strengths lie in her ability to be fully present in the moment, integrating information, technique and insight with simplicity and compassion.
Mary’s website is www.maryomalley.com Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Acorn Analogy
By Suzanne E. Harrill
Deep inside you know how to be you, as
an acorn knows how to be a mighty oak.
The acorn does the best it can do
at each stage of growth along its life-path.
Even if the early start was less than perfect
the eager oak accelerates its desire to grow
every time that it has nurturing from nature:
sunlight, rainwater, and soil nutrients.
YOU are like the acorn, doing your best under
the conditions in which you are growing.
Nurture yourself with awareness, acceptance,
love, self-respect, and self-esteem,
then watch you grow towards
your true Self!
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