Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Goodness and Growth

Christina Baldwin tells a story in her new book Storycatcher about the Babemba tribe in southern Africa. When a person does something wrong, something that injures the tribe, everyone gathers around the "offender" and one by one they tell the stories of everything he has done right in his life. They recite a truthful praise list. They "appreciate the person back into the better part of himself. The person is given a chance to remember who he is and why he is important to the life of the village," Christina writes. This is a life-giving story--truthful and shared for the sake of goodness and growth.

When I read these words in an e-mail from the talented Jennifer Louden, my heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears. Can you imagine a community that chooses redemption over punishment? Can you imagine a life in which all your wrong doings are replaced by what is whole and good and truthful? Sure, critics could pick this philosophy apart, laying bare all the faults of this concept, but can you, for just one moment, imagine the transformative power of this way of life? Can you imagine how it might possibly change the hearts of a society, a country, a people? Try to imagine it for just one moment. Close you eyes, breathe, and remember a time in your life when you felt you did something so wrong it was unforgivable. Now imagine those you wronged circling around you, reminding you of your goodness. Did you breathe a little easier? Did your shoulders drop? Did you feel a sudden and terrific release? Maybe it is hard to imagine something so radical. But can you bring it down to a smaller scale and imagine choosing to give this gift to yourself even if others can't or won't? Can you remind yourself of your goodness in the midst of all your faults, failures, "sins," weaknesses, mistakes and trespasses. Can you appreciate yourself back into the better part of yourself? Honestly it's not easy for me to imagine. Most of the time I'm my own worse critic. I whole heartedly believe in the art of self-compassion, it just doesn't happen to be an art I've mastered yet. Even if there are loving others standing in line waiting to sing my praises I can usually nullify all their good words with just a snap of my fingers. Imagining is one thing; practicing it is quite another. But this week, with three days of the 21 Day Challenge under my belt, I'm learning a little about finding good in the process of growth and creating.

I never thought an art journal could teach me about self-compassion. Lessons often come from the most unlikely of sources. Creating this week in my art journal has been an opportunity to release the perfection and accept the little mistakes. Yesterday I journaled with a pen I ended up not liking. Today I smudged my writing because I failed to let it dry before reaching across the page. Poor color choices. Bad paper choices. A million ways to screw it up and then let it go. All the little mistakes have become an opportunity to let it be, a chance to allow the imperfection on the page symbolize the beautiful imperfection of real life. So tonight, with white paint in my hair and the majority of my writing transposed on my forearm, I choose to let the little mistakes have their own beauty. I choose to remind myself of all that is good and perfect about the pages, and the life, I'm creating. I choose to stand back, admire, and learn. I choose to remember why my voice, my experience, and my creating is important. I choose to offer myself the redemptive power of compassion.

For a glimpse into the art journal I'm creating tune in to this weeks Grateful Friday post. I'll share a few pics then.


Blogger Laume said...

Thank you for this healing post. I could feel my stress melting away just for the reading of it. Hugs.

11:48 PM  
Blogger telfair said...

I can't wait to get a peek into your art journal! I'll bet it's going to be simply amazing, if the treasures on your wonderful blog are any indication.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

your blog is the holy water I seek. Compassion pours from its pages!

11:51 PM  
Blogger The Whole Self said...

thanks for the words!

3:07 AM  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

imagine the transformative power of this way of life

this is a great idea. the lyrics "you have to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" keep roaming through my brain.


4:33 AM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

very interesting idea...

and i can't wait to see your art journal

and its hard when
the result in your hand
just won't seem to match up
with the picture you had
in your head,
but it will come with time...
keep going and
not being hard on yourself

5:50 AM  
Blogger lovegreendog said...

good for you to let the journaling be what it is

looking forward to seeing your pages!

6:15 AM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...


Accept the little mistakes....

A very valuable lesson indeed.


6:28 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

What a powerful post. I was vibrating with the power of that compassionate circle. Thank you.

And that's awesome that the art journal is providing such an opportunity for compassion. I am finding that I need to let go of it looking good and just let it be what it is - a process of expression and discovery. I'll look forward to catching a glimpse of your explorations on Friday.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved that story so much. The lesson in it can be put to any part of my life. How I parent my children, how I love my husband...reminding them always, moment by moment how good they are and all the right they have done.

What a wonderful way to live your life and how amazing those people whom we love the most will feel.
Excellent, supurb post.
Thank you for sharing that and I am so happy that you are offering yourself the same compassion.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous beansprout said...

Wonderful story. I have to admit I have yet to master self-compassion. Take a look at my post dated March 29th (If you haven't already). There might be a few tools to help defeat the voices of self-diminishment. Just let yourself continue to create without judgment. be well.

7:41 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

it's very hard for me to accept my artwork and find it good to look at and share. but it will be a journey for us all and interesting to see where we end up.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

I cannot thank you enough for sharing this concept. It is so very opposite to the way we usually respond to transgression - wanting to see that the offender has made restitution just enough - or what we deem to be enough. These are truly life-altering thoughts. So wise!

11:24 AM  
Blogger snowsparkle said...

michelle, this concept's brilliance is revolutionary! this tribe has completely bypassed the idea of guilt as a motivator in favor of praise. and what is so inspired in this is that many times people act up because they are not getting what they need. what a remarkale way to heal that! would this make an incredible difference in the way we view the world? in the way countries dealt with one another. you are a breath of grace in this disheartened world.

ps... i can't remember if you just signed up for netflix or not, but rent "Mad Hot Ballroom" soon.... i think you will love it.
cheers! snowsparkle

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading about this tribe in an anthropology class long ago, and yes, that kindness in the face of transgression touches me too. It assumes that people are basically good--that no one is unreachable.

And I love the idea of accepting little mistakes. I have SUCH a problem with that with my writing...little mistakes, big mistakes, which is why I have so many projects left abandoned and unrevised.

Everytime I come here, I inch closer to facing them. Thank you for that.

12:53 PM  
Blogger alyssa said...

This is amazing. Redemption is such a powerful concept -- and that's not even talking about what happens when you actually practice it.

Wonderful, wonderful words - so much emapthy, care, compassion in your words & Christina Baldwin's. Going to get that book SOON! Look forward to seeing your challenge stuff.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Earth Monkey said...

This story about the tribe in was so beautful. It reminded me of a moment (I had) when I learned that my mistakes do not define me. This story you relayed was so heartfelt. I always want to "erase" so badly. I, too, can be very critical of myself. Your words are very inspiring. I'm looking forward to your journal pages. You have encouraged me to "let go" and get going on one of my own. Thank you. cheers! jojo

2:53 PM  
Blogger dani said...

thank you for sharing the wisdom from storycatcher - what an amazing community to be a part of - my god how much we can learn in our western world.

look forward to seeing your images

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Toryssa said...

I needed to be reminded to focus on the good rather than the bad!

I can't wait to see your pages.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous krista said...

Wow, that is such an inspiration. I can totally picture you smiling, paint in hair, embracing the mistakes- and inspiring us all to do the same.

8:01 PM  
Blogger mikaelah said...

I love this post. I worked with Christina one year in a writing personal stories workshop and she is fabulous. A true teacher that lives the teachings. thanks for bringing her image back to me and for your lovely words.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

Michelle, What a great tribal ritual. Thanks so much for sharing the story and for your added thoughts.

I'm just catching up on your blog, reading from the most recent post back to this one and thinking what a wonderful piece of synchronicity that you should post this in advance of needing just such support yourself.

I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner to join the tribe in reminding you of your goodness.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

BTW, what are those in your hand?

9:04 PM  

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