Turning Towards

The other day I was talking to a delightful six-year old. He was telling me that the bread I had given him with his dinner was crunchy.   I explained to him that when I was in the kitchen with his mother I was having such an interesting conversation with her that I had forgotten about the bread and left it in the oven too long. Grinning up at me with that irrepressible smile of his, he said, “Is my mama to blame?” I said, “No. No one’s to blame.” He said, “Are you to blame?”   I said, “No. No one’s to blame.” Then he said with a twinkle in his eye, “Then the oven’s to blame!”

Only six and already he has learned what we all have been taught so well: There’s a problem; Figure out who or what to blame; Blame; And then turn away to something else.   But blaming, as tempting as it may be, does nothing to change what has already happened. If we blamed the oven for the crunchy bread, the bread would still be crunchy.

When we are ill or injured, blaming and turning away will not help us. Blaming closes our hearts and makes us fearful. When our hearts are closed and we are fearful, we try to escape. We try to be someplace else. Not here! We don’t want to look at what’s true here!

But we are here. We are injured or ill. We want to recover and heal. And recoveries thrive on knowing what’s true right here, right now, in this moment. Recoveries thrive on stopping the blame game and turning towards ourselves with kindness and the willingness to know. Real time information for us is crucial. We need to know exactly what is happening in our minds/bodies/spirits.

The more we know, the more we encourage our brains to heal. The more we know the better we can manage ourselves to gently, persistently lead ourselves back to function. The more we know, the more creative we can be in designing activities that stimulate our neuroplasticity.

What does it take to stop blaming and turn towards? First, be kind. We open our hearts. We might learn from whatever mistake we think we have made but it’s useless to punish ourselves. Second, we practice. Everything we ever learn to do well is a practice. Think about playing an instrument or developing a work skill. Third, don’t rush. It’s unkind to expect that we will all of a sudden stop blaming, turn towards ourselves with an open heart, and embrace our illness or injury. Nobody works that fast.

We start and start again, learning as we go. We bring our awareness to ourselves, just as we are. We don’t push ourselves away. We open to ourselves. We learn everything we can. Is our hand cold? Is it hot? Or does it have limited sensation? What’s true? Gradually we teach ourselves not to blame and to turn towards, not away.