This is your gift to the world

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The fear of being abandoned. The terror of being lonely forever. The anxiety of being utterly dependent upon another. The panic of unbearable vulnerability and exposure. The dread of the looming death of yourself and everyone around you. These are the great fears that come as you wake, as you fall asleep, and as you dream through this life.

But perhaps the greatest fear of all is the fear of being loved. We don’t really see it this way, though. For when you are really loved, when you are entirely seen, when you are fully held, it is the end of your world as you know it. You will never be the same. You will never again be able to pretend that you are other than perfect and precious as you are. And that is terrifying.

Life is always seeing you in this way.

You long to be loved, to be seen, but please know that the implications are immense; they are cosmic. To allow yourself to be loved in this way a part of you must die. Everything you thought you weren’t must be surrendered. You must let go of the stories of the unlovable one, the awakened one, the special one, the imperfect one, and the despairing one. Love wishes to reveal your nakedness, to remove your clothing, and to burn away all that is false and less than whole within you. What you are is a raging firestorm of creativity, sensuality, openness, warmth, and kindness. Love will never stop until you know this.

In this way, love is a destructive process, for it comes to re-order everything you thought you knew. But will you step into this sweet annihilation? Yes, something will be shattered; actually, everything will be taken away. All that will be left is your wholeness and your raw, tender heart. This is your gift to this world.

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10 Responses

  1. Nancy Fabiano
    | Reply

    Wow Matt ~ what an amazing post. Your timing is beautiful, the words resonate so. Thank you so much for sharing your voice, your heart. I had a huge insight this week during an acupuncture session; I saw with utter clarity (in some brief glimpse of eternity) this strange and wonderful paradox that came from a decision I made a lifetime ago to withhold my inner light. The cost of protecting my heart, closing down, was a decision to not let anything in. Anything.
    and yet …. Love has been reaching out to me, asking me to come home, because below is a poem I wrote on July 2nd, over 2 months ago. Reading your post today reminded me of it so I went back and found it. And so, the threads we weave come back to us, reach out to others, then spin back to us in time somehow. Go figure. Here’s to living in the mystery of it all.
    Nancy Fabiano, Kansas City

    ~~~~~~~~

    In my dreams I see a great river
    she is flowing inside me.
    The river pours forth, taking everything away that is not me
    Once it’s gone, there will be a light,
    the magnificence of which had only been hinted at.
    I am afraid, yet I can no more NOT do this that I can not take in my next breath.
    THIS is that breath. This Here-Now moment
    so beautifully ripe
    so true.
    May I allow all that I am not, to pour out of me.
    May the earth take it
    and may fire be the alchemy,
    the offering.

  2. Dana Blanchard
    | Reply

    Thank you so much.

    • Matt Licata
      | Reply

      You’re welcome, Dana – thank you for stopping by and for sharing the journey with us.

  3. Pamela
    | Reply

    Just starting some work on trauma and what it has done to my life. I found your site through the books I have been buying on soundstrue.com. I bought the book, Waking the Tiger and the sequels to it. I am working with a psychologist with this whole process. Actually I am working with two psychologists. Your words are a great solace to my spirit as I am a spiritual being with God as my father. He truly cares for my soul. He truly loves us as the ones he created to be just exactly who we are. Love is my journey as I never had it growing up as a child and then a teenager. I love your words. ♥♥♥

    • Matt Licata
      | Reply

      Thank you for sharing with us, Pamela, and for opening your heart here. As you have discovered, you are not alone. We look forward to more connection with you over the months and years to come. Sending our love…

  4. Kristy
    | Reply

    This is beautiful. Simply. This is really worth sharing, thank you dearly.

    • Matt Licata
      | Reply

      You’re welcome, Kristy. Thanks so much for stopping by. Take care…

  5. Nina
    | Reply

    This is a truly beautiful thought.
    It reminded me of a speech by George Saunders to graduating college students I saw posted in the NYtimes.

    Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

    And I intend to respect that tradition.

    Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

    So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?” (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.

    But here’s something I do regret:

    In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

    So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

    Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

    And then – they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

    One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

    End of story.

    Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

    But still. It bothers me.

    So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

    What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

    Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

    Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

    Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

    It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

    Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

    Here’s what I think:

    Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

    Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

    So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

    Well, yes, good question.

    Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

    So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

    Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well,everything.

    One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

    And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

    Congratulations, by the way.

    When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

    And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

    Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

    So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really:selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

    Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

    And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

    Congratulations, Class of 2013.

    I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.

  6. Chris Duel
    | Reply

    Brilliant. True. Sublime.

    Matt, this is one of the most moving and evocative pieces I’ve read in a long time. I will share it around the web.

    Thanks.

    • Matt Licata
      | Reply

      Thank you, Chris, for your kind words, and for sharing the journey with us. Lots of love…

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