Lessons from Sticks and Stones.


Who said words can never hurt you?

Well, they were dead wrong, at least about me. For almost two months I’ve been balanced on the edge of a sword that showed up laser-like out of nowhere, and is only now showing signs of letting me off. Mean words have been part of it, and they hurt. I am here not so much to complain (though, okay, there may be that) as to discover my part in it, however great or small.

I am writing about this strange, nasty interlude in order to help me, and perhaps you, better understand and embrace our dear selves in all our gory, sometimes ill-behaved glory. I  bare it all because I believe we awake ones can make the difference our anguished world needs us to make only through keen awareness and deep compassion for our own very particular anguish.

Like it or not, and quite paradoxically, if I’m to be of selfless service to you (or anyone), I’ve got to keep clearing the way for my self first and foremost. So here we go.

Pushing nothing away

We know that I am, and you are too (since you’re able to read this), blessed beyond belief. Any distress of ours pales against the millions — no, billions — of people experiencing lives of suffering and deprivation almost beyond our capacity to imagine it. Then again, thanks to all news all the time, less and less is left to our imagination, if we’re willing to look. And I am.

So there’s no question some of the piercing I’ve felt recently is fueled by the heart-rending stories coming at us fast and furious from around the world. My firm intention is to open my heart so wide I can learn to contain and embrace it all, pushing nothing and no one away. That’s why I choose to pay attention to stories of others’ despair. It can be a lot to hold these days.

But the world’s major miseries, I am embarrassed to admit, have sometimes been less troubling to me than my own minor ones. To my surprise and dismay, I’ve been buffeted by an unprecedented string of sometimes extreme, sometimes subtle stings seemingly aimed at me.

People ranging from an old friend to a new neighbor, to the outrageous owners of an inn where we were guests, have treated me more disrespectfully, at times outright rudely, than I’ve ever been treated in all my lucky life. I was ignored, threatened with lawsuits, falsely accused of berating people I’d befriended. All of a sudden, out of the blue. Hard to know what to make of it.

Wake up, little Suzie, wake up

As a friend, to whom I was narrating this bizarre turn of events, asked me the other day, “Don’t you wonder what you might have done to attract all that negative energy?” I do, Andrea, I do.

Although I can usually see that the offenders themselves are in pain, and that their ill behavior may have less to do with me than with them, it still hurts at least a little every time. Thanks to decades of Yoga-inspired personal growth work, I’ve learned to work through it and get over it too.

But the cumulative effect of the many and varied insults (not to mention some random but significant professional disappointments) has left me feeling sad and defeated.

And that, dear readers, may be exactly what the Universe, aka God, has in mind.

Don’t we have to keep breaking down if we’re to break open, liberating our dear hearts and crushing ego’s seemingly endless ploys to distract us from the love that we are? Unfortunately, we do.

When we forget our true selves for even a minute, the Universe kindly (or not so kindly) seeks to remind us. If we miss the soft, subtle cues, then the Universe, or reality — or what I loosely refer to as God — ups the ante to whatever it takes to make us wake up and come back home to the heart. Thank God!

No question, since the publication of my first book, Bare Naked at the Reality Dance, I had lost my way a little (or maybe a lot). I got too busy too fast working, and looking outside, for the acclaim and, yes, the fame I’m sure I’m not alone among new authors in seeking.

But searching out and becoming dependent on others’ recognition and approval was not a happy-making plan for me, yogini and spiritual seeker that I have spent four decades aiming to be.

That strange spate of humiliations is forcing me back to, and back on, myself. Having been knocked to the ground for a round or two, I am beginning to remember that I alone must be my best friend, my own mainstay again.

Lessons I’m being clobbered with

Now that I think — and write — about it, it’s pretty simple. There are at least two lessons I am being clobbered with. First, while I am much improved from just a few years ago, I apparently still have things to learn about humility and the self-love it takes to sustain it.

Second, since some people won’t respond well to me (or maybe to anyone) no matter how unassuming I am, it will behoove me to care a whole lot less about what others think of me.

So, yes, I’ve probably invited some of the uncharacteristic verbal abuse by showing up too forcefully. Had I been paying closer attention to others’ emotional needs, I might have toned myself down around people who may find me threatening. I’d have been more humble.

They say that what we put out is what comes back to us. It makes sense. I brought on disrespect by being less than fully respectful, however restrained my arrogance may have been. I see I can be more considerate — and far less judgmental — of everyone I meet, an important lesson for me.

And yes again, little Suzie has foolishly (even if understandably) continued to hope everyone she meets or shares her writing with will fall in love with her. And it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to realize that the more we crave attention and approbation (let alone love), the less likely we are to attract it.

The Everybody-loves-Suzie-fest ain’t happenin’, and it’s time I got used to it. It’s probably a darned good thing actually, given my nature and nurture tendencies to be too self-absorbed.

The bottom line is this: For a seeker after lessons in self-love, compassion and selfless service, rejection trumps adulation every time. How better to learn to love ourselves and, by extension, others?

The antidote to the pain of the insults and rejection is to sit with it every time. I must love and hold myself through each particular episode as best I can. I must stay with the painful feelings until they are burnt to an ashen crisp that Shiva would be proud of. I must stay with the hurt till I can return to that great, still heart of mine, letting it nourish me, rather than look for love outside.

So, go ahead, great Universe. Bring on the affronts and disappointments if you must. Bring them on until I get the message of humility and non-attachment so clearly that, even less than caring about how I show up with others, I won’t give a damn about showing up at all. I will simply be, which, if my beloved Swami Kripalvananda is any indication, is the most selfless service of all.

Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hear from you, dear readers. Please tell us all how you use the occasional slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown your way to learn your lessons and grow. Let your words fly, and dare to comment — for the growth and good of us all.


Suzanne Grenager is a sister-seeker, awakener and scribe with a well-honed gift for helping people see, appreciate and express their particular greatness. Off to teach and travel in India before the Beatles, she followed a breadcrumb path starting as an Annenberg School NBC Scholar and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. A breakdown following the death of her oldest friend led her to Kripalu Yoga, which she practiced, taught and wrote about in Yoga Journal and at SpiritSite.com. Certified in the body-mind Rubenfeld Synergy method, Suzanne was an early transformational life coach. And in 2012, she screwed up her courage, held her feet to the fire and published Bare Naked at the Reality Dance. It’s her achingly honest book about what it takes to wake up, fall in love with ourselves, and make the difference we’re born and dying to make. She hopes you’ll visit her blog.


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