Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Becoming a Diamond

A few years ago, while I was a student at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I had the privilege of meeting an Apache medicine man named Bear Watcher. He told us a story from his people that has always stayed with me.

He began by telling us that in the Apache language, there are no words for "shame" or "guilt." He said that when each of us is born, we are like raw, uncut diamonds. If you have ever seen a diamond in the rough, you know that they are often not very remarkable. In fact, they sometimes resemble small pieces of common quartz, dull and without much luster. When the diamond is cut by an expert gem cutter, however, its hidden sparkle and luster can be seen clearly.

In the same way, Bear Watcher said, each "cut" that we receive in our lifetime teaches us how to reflect light into the world. Everything that happens to us, every experience, offers us a new cut, revealing a new facet in our diamond. Naturally, the most brilliant and beautiful diamonds are the ones with the most cuts.

I use this image when we come to the end of the last session of our eight-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy groups. I pass out a basket of quartz crystals, and ask each participant to choose one. We hold our crystal in our hands, gazing mindfully at it, and seeing how the light is reflected and refracted within its natural prism.

I tell them Bear Watcher's story, and I conclude by saying that we all have received cuts from our own life experiences, but not to worry. We are merely diamonds-in-progress, gradually revealing our unique brilliance to the world.

So when you feel that life has lost its luster, or when you are unable to touch the preciousness of your existence, hold your own "diamond" in your hand. Instead of feeling shame and guilt toward yourself, express gratitude for the new cut on your diamond that will make you shine just that much brighter.

According to Cindy Carter, Ph.D., who introduced me to Bear Watcher at Pacifica, "acquiring new cuts on our spiritual diamonds is the purpose of life. Those who endorse this story never need to struggle with the question of life's meaning."

The Mountain Got Tired of Sitting by Hafiz (translation by Daniel Ladinsky from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz):

The sun
Won a beauty contest and became a jewel
Set upon God's right hand.

The earth agreed to be a toe ring on the
Beloved's foot
And has never regretted its decision.

The mountains got tired
Of sitting amongst a sleeping audience

And are now stretching their arms
Toward the Roof.

The clouds gave my soul an idea
So I pawned my gills
And rose like a winged diamond

Ever trying to be near
More love, more love
Like you.

The Mountain got tired of sitting
Amongst the snoring crowd inside of me
And rose like a ripe sun
Into my eye.

My soul gave my heart a brilliant idea
So Hafiz is rising like a
Winged diamond.

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