I was telling a story at a Unity church service about my encounter with a young woman that happened nineteen years before, and someone stood up in the middle of my sermon and shouted “That was me! I was that woman!”
It was more than a little juicy, this divine interruption/intervention. But let me back up a bit.
To begin my talk I used the Native American teaching tale about the two wolves. For those of you who haven’t heard it:
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy, a fight between two wolves. One of them is greed, arrogance, superiority, resentment, self-pity, guilt, inferiority, lies, false pride, and ego. The other wolf is joy, love, peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
And the grandfather’s simple reply: “The one you feed.”
File that away, and now let’s go back further in time.
I had a chance to first meet the woman who stood up at church while giving a house concert. Towards the end I was taking requests for personalized healing songs, and someone mentioned that it was her birthday and that she would love a special song. I invited her to come into the center of the room and lie down on the carpet, and people gathered around to lay their hands on her while I brought forth a spontaneous song to honor and celebrate her unique journey. She started to cry. It seemed obvious that her tears were happy ones, as she also had a beaming smile on her face. I kept strumming and delivering the birthday telegram, connecting deeply with her on a soul level with the song. She continued to accompany me with her crying, adding occasional bursts of laughter as percussion.
Perhaps ten minutes went by. The good vibes were contagious, potent, and palpable. I assumed everyone else in the room was flowing with the experience and enjoying themselves, until out of the corner of my eye I registered that one woman had gotten up, found some sage, lit it, and was spreading the incense around the room. She seemed agitated. “What’s up with that”? I wondered.
Eventually the concert ended, and after snacks, cassette sales (it was twenty five years ago), and goodbyes, I finally called it a night, feeling more than satisfied with the evening’s work/play.
But the following morning I got a telephone call from the lady who had been saging, and she was truly incensed. She spoke with great anxiety and volume, and I put her on speakerphone, partly so my traveling buddy Stephen could hear what she was saying, and also to get a bit of distance from her voice. She let me know, in no uncertain terms, that the night before I had been over the top inappropriate with the song recipient, that the poor, vulnerable, birthday girl I had been singing to had obviously been re-living past sexual abuse, and I ignorantly let the song and her anguished wails go on and on. A real healer would have intervened and not let her drown in her experience. I was not at all trained or equipped to handle such a situation, and I had no business trying to do any healing work I was doing. I should immediately stop going deep with people and stick to lighthearted humor and entertainment.
She was sure she was doing both the world and me an important service by calling out another New Age charlatan and putting me in my place.
While she was giving me a piece of her mind, Stephen was giving me a peace of his.
“Scott, this is all her stuff! It’s not at all about you. She’s deep in a projection. The woman you sang to was having the time of her life! The only abuse going on is happening right now. Don’t take this seriously. Don’t give her power. Just breathe. You’re safe, you’re innocent, it’s not about you at all!”
Two voices. Two wolves! One howling accusations, and the other reminding me to relax and not to take it personally. Which wolf to feed?
Did I take to heart the sermon from Stephen-Wolf?
Wish I had.
While I sided with him intellectually, the woman’s prosecution was far too captivating, as it brought to the surface some long harbored self-doubts. My inner critic blamed and shamed me for weeks, replaying the tape of her words as evidence of my inadequacy and guilt in the courtroom of my mind, and I seriously questioned if I should throw in the towel and leave the healing part of my work to valid professionals with authority and credentials.
Never mind that the woman who received the song left the concert gushing with gratitude. Never mind that I had a folder in my file cabinet filled with piles of handwritten letters of appreciation for the work I had been doing with people. The prosecution had filed a far more forceful and emotionally compelling case, hypnotizing a jury of my fears by continuously chanting the mantra/verdict, “Inadequate, Not Enough, Guilty!”
I’ve often tried to win the courtroom fight by beating the prosecuting attorney at his own game, feeding my defense with affirmations and declarations of my innocence. For years I have tried. It’s been very trying work, and all my trials have left me pretty tired.
I have had much more success resting my case and laughing it out of court.
My Spiritual Dr. Seuss poem, How the Guilt Stole Christmas, was written to support myself and others to rest your case instead of trying to win it. It’s brilliant, if I can say so myself.
And now, back to the church. The woman jumped up and exclaimed, “That was me! I was the birthday girl, and you were singing to me that night. I’ll never forget. It was one of the highlights of my life!”
A part of me that had never been totally sure, relaxed. After the service I got to catch up with her while I munched on church snacks and sold a few CD’s. We both were amazed and grateful that we had crossed paths again and got to say hello.
What did I learn from all this? A courtroom is no place for us, God’s Innocent Kids. Our innocence needs no defense. I learned to feed the love wolf. That’s why we are here doing time. To learn to unlearn guilt and listen to the love wolf. That’s our life sentence. Case closed and dismissed.