When Michael came upon The Three Principals he was already enjoying great success. He had published two books and was a much sought-after teacher and speaker. But, like a lot of spiritual writers and thinkers, his journey to inspire and help others began with a desire to understand his own despair – which, in Michael’s case, expressed itself in periodic thoughts of suicide.
In our interview he described how the techniques he had once used to deal with his despair seemed to do little more than stave off a waiting darkness. He said that during this period of his life, despite being married to a woman he loved and doing work he loved and for which he was generously compensated, he felt as though he was always two very bad weeks away from wanting to kill himself.
Then he found The Three Principles, which taught him that there is a big difference between thinking you would like to kill yourself and actually wanting to kill yourself. This was a great relief to him because, as he said to me at the end of this story, “I realized I wasn’t broken.”
Which is why this blog and the coming book are called No One is Broken. Michael is one of those writers and teachers from whom I have learned much. He’s funny, insightful, compassionate, and thriving. And yet not so very long ago he lived with the quiet and persistent thought that he was broken. I do not think he is unique. I think the persistent thought of brokenness follows everyone in sometimes quiet and sometimes very loud ways. I also think that there is nothing worse we could ever think of ourselves than that we are broken.
I began all this when my son was diagnosed with what is called Autism, but I have long known that this work really has nothing to do with that word. Autism itself is just a thought, a word we invented when we saw some people behaving differently than we had expected. Yet just like a sentence on a page, a thought is either in service to the story of our life or it is not. If it is not, then it must go, and because it is nothing, because it has no teeth that can bite us or claws that can hold us, it can exact no revenge for its dismissal. It was never really here in the first place.
I believe the thought of Autism is destined for this erasure. It has never served us, linked unconsciously as it has become to the concept of brokenness. It is not an evil word, however. It’s just a first draft of a thought, an impulse response to our fear that some of us are just not as good as the others. When it is gone, we will perceive the empty space reserved for the answer that we had been asking for in our grief and despair. That too had been following us, sometimes quietly, sometimes quite loudly, waiting for its chance to be heard above the din of an old and useless story.