[Editor Note: we’re exploring a completely different format for this 20-month-long blog!]
One of the problems connected to the homeless issue in Hawaii is that of “squatting”. The legal definition for a squatter is: “A person who settles in or occupies property with no legal claim to the property. A squatter is one who resides on a property to which he or she has no title, right or lease.” How this concept plays out in Hawaii is that homeless stake claim to a stretch of public sidewalk, public beach, or public land, and then act as if they legally own it, even to the point of threatening any who transgress “their” bit of turf. There have been incidents of homeless even raging at or attacking people walking on the sidewalks as they pass by someone’s tent.
There is a June 2002 article on UPI.com Science News which talks about the squatting problem on Kauai’s Na Pali coast: “The island park’s employees refer to these semi-permanent settlers as ‘illegals’ because they are a pernicious problem for conservationists and law enforcement agencies alike. Wherever the illegal campers settle, they bring garbage, sanitation problems and ecological damage with them, Kauai park officials told United Press International.”
What about the squatters in our heart? How they got there doesn’t even really matter; what matters is their presence. One kind of squatter is characterized by the cry of “It’s not my fault!” Another of a more threatening nature cries out “You make me SO mad!” Another whimpers “Why won’t someone love me?!” Normally we do not want these squatters in our heart; and yet, one day, we awaken to the fact that they are there.
There is another interesting part of the legal definition of a “squatter” which should could give us spiritual pause: “A squatter may gain adverse possession of the property through involuntary transfer. A property owner who does not use or inspect his or her property for a number of years could lose title to another person who makes a claim to the land, takes possession of the land and uses the land.”
No matter how our heart’s squatters took up residence, it is spiritually crucial that we become aware of their presence, and that we turn them out! Some of them will return in stealth, even again and again. Our growth requires that we take responsibility for that growth, and that may mean doing some things which we find unpleasant, but which that growth requires.
Over the years I have found that a daily 15 or 20 minutes period of reflection about my interior is helpful in keeping track of my heart’s occupants, all of whom are at various stages of growth. Occasionally, however, I find one who has somehow snuck in and is making trouble; at that point I focus on that occupant daily for around a month or so, and usually by the end of that period he either learns to behave or I make it so unpleasant for him through constant scrutiny that he moves out.
Who we rent our heart’s space to matters!