I was at a retreat a couple weeks ago, and one of the facilitators mentioned an origin story or concept held by the native people of Hawaii. I found it quite compelling and attractive.
According to this myth, we are all born with a bowl full of light, pure light. Over time, the bowl collects dirt and stones, sins and resentments, and, with this clutter, the light gets murky and dim. From time to time, we need to clean out the bowl, go at it with a hose so that the dirt and stones dislodge, getting rid of the clutter so that the bowl and its light are clear, pure once again.
As simple and obvious as it is, reflecting what many of us have heard and have been taught in other more sophisticated, perhaps confusing, intimidating ways, I love the image of taking a hose, perhaps a water-pik, and cleaning our souls, cleaning out our souls, ever so thoroughly and carefully. I like to call it spiritual hygiene.
Much of the dirt that gets into our bowl and many of the stones that come to block the light are anger and resentments. Being angry at others (and ourselves) and holding grudges and judgment really gets in the way of the light, leaving us in the dark. Even before leading to violence and war, anger and resentments drains us of energy. As Nelson Mandella said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.”
A key to clearing this clutter is forgiving. When we forgive, when we let go of anger and judgment, when we are able to feel that someone isn’t bad – or that we aren’t bad – because of something they or we have done, we are able to be free, released in the light. But this isn’t easy, because it means admitting that some part of our thinking – that he is completely evil because he robbed me, that I’m a hopeless case because I eat donuts when I shouldn’t – is wrong. We don’t like being wrong, and to many, compromise is a dirty word.