This past week, the very talented Josiah Schmelzer tattooed my arm with a Rumi quote that has guided me for several years now:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."
Why a tattoo rather than a wall hanging?
The simple answer to this question is that these are words by which I want to live.
My own healing has centered on seeing clearly how often thinking in terms of dichotomous judgments--right or wrong, good or bad--has not only narrowed my thoughts and actions but also limited my ability to connect with others. "Ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing" have also contributed to a lot of internal suffering, mostly in the forms of anxiety and self-judgment. Trying to soften and open to whatever comes my way, on the other hand, has promoted a sense of belonging as well as the dissolution of us/them boundaries.
One of the trickier aspects of navigating this shift beyond right/wrong thinking has involved boundary-setting. After all, the goal of creating more spaciousness around our experience is not to be mistreated by others or to jump headlong into someone else's suffering. But when we are experiencing a sense of harm caused by another or feel an intense desire to save someone, remembering that the stories we tell about others and ourselves are partial, and often distorted, can help us to pause. In that pause lies the freedom to act and speak in ways that cultivate our lives for peace, not war.*
Rumi's poetry reminds me of all this and more, so I now wear it on my sleeve, so to speak. * I'm thinking of Victor Frankl's quote here, which I first heard from Tara Brach: "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."