“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.” – lyrics by Leonard Cohen
For many decades, I’ve had the urge to clear my throat when on an important phone call or at an in-person (and now Zoom) meeting -- which is pretty much all of them. Some years this annoying tic has disappeared only to eventually return. Since I don’t consciously feel nervous when speaking to individuals or groups, I’ve never been sure why I did it.
This led me to meet some interesting people while trying traditional medicine, speech therapy, cranial-sacral manipulation, breathing techniques, chiropractic adjustments, and many other modalities. The only recognizable improvement resulted from sucking on Werner’s Original sugar-free caramel hard candies. Who knew? Meanwhile our younger daughter, Scooter (not Jamie’s real name), insisted I cease and desist and accept that I wasn’t ever going to be perfect. Out of the mouths of forty-one-year-old babes!
At this point, I relinquished all other strategies except sincerely chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for wisdom and understanding. And recalled my mentor Daisaku Ikeda’s encouragement that, “If you summon your courage to challenge something, you'll never be left with regret,” and “Illness is not something to feel ashamed of. It is not a sign of misfortune or defeat. Suffering is the fuel of wisdom, and it opens the way to happiness.”
I thought I’d processed and debunked the idea from early childhood that I was only deserving of love if I was perfect. After all, I’m a Buddha flaws and all, right? However, on a cellular level there is obviously some residual guilt associated with previous selfish acts and poor word choices. Especially when someone else was hurt as a result. My throat feels like it’s the seat of that misconception. So, to further let go of the past and allow myself to practice self-compassion in the present moment is one of my New Year’s resolutions.
Author Steve Goodier said, “Bring it up, make amends, forgive yourself. It sounds simple, but don’t think for a second that it is easy. Getting free from the tyranny of past mistakes can be hard work, but definitely worth the effort. And the payoff is health, wholeness and inner peace. In other words, you get your life back.”
Our therapist, Kathleen (Kat’s real name), described a Japanese art form known as Kentsugi. This is a method of repairing cracked pottery by mending the broken areas with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The underlying philosophy is that breakage and repair is part of the history of an object and need not be hidden. What a great metaphor for healing the metaphysical cracks that I still carry around. Which means my throat clearing is a thing of beauty -- a reminder of life’s imperfections and the importance of humility.
I recently read these words by Ikeda Sensei: “There is a saying that if you fall down seven times, get up an eighth. Don’t give up when you feel discouraged—just pick yourselves up and renew your determination each time.” (The Victorious Teen, p. 16).
This might be the hundred and eighth time I’m getting up with this specific problem but, cross my heart (and throat), I will stay the course.
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