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Sinners & Saints

We all have a person or two in our life that trigger us with their words and their actions. This person could be a family member or someone with whom we work. For me, I work with someone who shows up in the world and executes their work in a very different way than I choose to do. At times, they may say something that creates a sense of unease or actually hurts me. Other times, they engage in actions that make me feel marginalized and discounted.

When this happens, I find myself internalizing a story that makes them wrong and makes me right. I start building my case. Additionally, I recall all the past slights that I believe I have experienced from this person to support my case. Naturally, I fail to recall any positive interactions I have had with this person that might interfere with me making my case.

The more that I defend my rightness and build my case against my co-worker in my mind, the more agitated I become and it robs me of my peace. Yet I will cling to my rightness like a self-righteous saint certain that I know the truth and the other is a sinner for holding a different truth. Eventually the pain from my self-righteous rightness is so great that I need some relief. At that moment, I am reminded of a friend who cautioned me from creating sinners and saints of the people in my life. He would remind me that we are often doing the best that we can at any given moment.

Whenever I am able to pause and remember those pearls of wisdom, I am able to create more space and start to let go of my rightness and dismantle the case that I have built against my colleague. Because once I create space, I can begin to connect with the positive aspects of this person. I am able to remember their strengths, and value their perspectives and the unique way in which they show up in the world. I recall that they are part of Divine creation just like me. If I am honest with myself, I am able to own the ways that I become attached to my way of seeing the world and my way of showing up in the world to the point of thinking my ways are the right ways. And when I am able to see my level of attachment, I am able to drop the knife of which Hafiz speaks.

In those moments when I am caught up in the hurtful words and actions, I make my colleague into a sinner and forget to see the Divine within them. I am quick to grab my knife. And the longer I hold the knife, the greater injury I cause to my colleague and myself. But when I can pause, see the Divine in my colleague and myself, I can drop the knife.

Contemplative Expressive Arts Practice

  • This contemplative expressive arts process works with the alchemy of self and other.

  • Draw two overlapping circles so that the place where the two circles overlap form an almond shape (mandorla). Gather art materials that you may wish to use.

  • Choose one side to represent yourself, the other side to represent a person with whom you have conflict, and the center to hold the tension between the two for the purposes of transformation.

  • Before starting the creative process, take a moment to turn inward. Call to mind a person with whom you are in conflict. Recall all aspects of this person both positive and negative from your perspective.

  • Using art materials that you are drawn to at this time, create an image or images on the self side. When you finish, create an image or images on the other side.

  • Give a name to the “self “side and a name to the “other” side of the image.

  • Now have the two sides engage in dialogue until you reach a resting point in the dialogue.

  • Once the dialogue is finished, take a moment to turn inward again. At this point, see if you can “drop the knife” and imagine what might arise in the center.

  • Create an image or images in the center of the image.

  • Give a title to the image in the center.

  • In response to the overall piece, engage in some free flow writing starting with the sentence stem “I am…”.

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