Letting the Mangoes Roll Away
For anyone who has ever made a cringe-worthy mistake, committed a wrong, had an embarrassing misstep, or is haunted by something less than stellar about their past, we have a teaching for you. It has to do with mangoes.
This lesson comes from the first vision fast taken by one of the holiest leaders of the St. Vincent Shakers, and one of Brad’s spiritual fathers, Archbishop Pompey:
On my first pilgrim journey, I heard people say that when your sins roll away they go right back to the sea. In my journey, I found myself on a mountain picking mangoes. The mangoes were all ripe and they got away from me. I went to find them, but found myself on a truck where I heard a voice speak and sing this song, “I am delivered, praise the Lord.” That was when I found out about my sins. For some people, their sin is a big stone to roll away. When I imagined mine, it was four ripe mangoes. I also learned that when your sins are gone, you are not to go looking for them. Because, your sins have been rolled away.
Archbishop Pompey often taught his parishioners, “Everyone needs to leave the mangoes behind and never look back.” In his spiritual visionary journey, “the four mangoes fell off the truck, but when I started to look for them, a voice interrupted and declared, ‘Don’t look back. Let them roll away.’”
His teaching echoes the practical wisdom that there is no need to obsessively sort through your garbage before throwing it away. When it comes to your faults, past mistakes, and wrong doings, simply hand your “garbage” to something far bigger than you. Allow it to be taken care of by sacred alchemy that is beyond your understanding, rather spend lots of time “processing it” through endless talk. In other words, avoid inflating any part of your experience to become the whole theme of life, whether it is called a problem, pathology, dark side, sin, shadow, or mango. Psychotherapies that indulge in over-examining the pathology or “shadow” of their clients’ lives unknowingly participate in this kind of part–whole inversion, unnecessarily inflating “shadow” into an overarching theme. Don’t let the shadows roam around like giants inside a small container. Let them roll into the illumined sacred sea so they can be dissolved by divine light.
There is a time and place for facing the shortcomings, mistakes, and errors of your life, doing so to realize that trickster mind is not a reliable captain of your soul, nor a wise judge of your spiritual character. When you then surrender your life to divine guidance, there is never any need to look back again at what has been “rolled away.” It is trickster who wants you to both avoid examining your limitations and failures when you need to, and reexamine them when it is no longer necessary to do so.
If you are having a difficult time dealing with the darkness of your past, then consider purchasing a small flashlight and writing these words on it: “I am the light of the world.” Carry it with you always. Any time you catch yourself looking over your shoulder to see where the mangoes or any past spoiled rotten fruits are rolling, reach for the flashlight, read the words, and shine it in your eyes. Don’t look back unless you want to turn into a pillar of salt, which will bring you unnecessary pain every time it is placed on a wound. If you want to be the salt that never stops aggravating your wound, go ahead and keep rubbing it in. The alternative is to shine your light and keep walking forward toward vaster, more illumined spiritual horizons.
– The Keeneys, adapted from our book Sacred Ecstatics: The Recipe for Setting Your Soul on Fire
Quote from Keeney, Bradford. 2002. Shakers of St. Vincent. Philadelphia: Ringing Rocks Foundation and Leete’s Island Press. p. 117