I have been going through what some would call a very difficult time in life and others call a dark night of the soul.
This is not the first time I have dealt with major challenges and changes in my life. Let me share just a bit, of what has been happening since November 2009. First, I was sick with the flu most of November, and unable to work. Then my father became ill and ended up in the hospital in early December so I traveled to my parent’s home in Orange County CA to help. He never recovered completely and on January 15, 2010, he passed away. Then on January 20, the day before leaving to go back to Ohio for the funeral, I tore my meniscus. I went back on crutches for his burial. On January 23, I returned to Orange County and saw an Orthopedic Surgeon. I had knee surgery February 1 in Orange County. After the surgery, I returned home to northern California February 7 to recover. Just a few weeks later when my mom fell on the driveway and was admitted to the hospital, I returned to Southern California. Once she was in the hospital, it was clear that she would no longer be able to live alone. Of course, this brought on another set of challenges and major life changes for the whole family, most of all for my mom.
Throughout life we find ourselves subjected to what Shakespeare called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I would call this the “Ups and Downs” of life. And even though this is a natural part of our journey, we often fail to realize this fact and struggle with difficult times when we could choose to experience things differently.
There are advantages to growing older, like more wisdom and increased awareness. The very things I thought were hurting me turned out to be some of the greatest gifts I have ever received, like my alcoholism and back injury. Perhaps even more importantly, I have come to understand that without the difficult times of life I would not have the same appreciation for the “up” times in life. As Neale Donald Walsh puts it, “It is this very contrast that creates our known experiences. It is Contrast that creates the Context within which anything at all can be known Experientially.”
We often do not acknowledge the ebb and flow of life and we can find ourselves seeking a very distorted view of our experiences. This distortion says that perfection somehow means that nothing ever goes wrong. What does “going wrong,” mean anyway? Could we have a distorted view of that as well?
For instance, I lived with alcoholism and a severe back injury for many years. From the outside, these look like wrong or terrible events, but these very things guided me into the work I do today. So, were they bad things or were they perceived bad at the time and now should be perceived as good? What do good and bad really mean? We have attached or defined labels to them, we do this with everything in life using the five senses and our minds. Aren’t bad and good really just two words which describe an event or thing based on a perception? Isn’t it true that two people can have the exact same experience and one person can see it as awesome and the other think it is the worst experience of their life? For example, how about a rollercoaster ride or eating Brussels sprouts? Isn’t it true that we all see things slightly different from one another all the time? So who is correct then, are you for seeing my alcoholism as terrible or me for seeing it as good?
Can something be perceived as wrong and later realized to be in perfect order? Can we recognize that without the perceived wrong experience the right experience would never have happened? Moreover, does this mean that everything that is happening right now is in perfect order? Making a judgment based on a perception in the moment is not a factual representation of the event unless we let it fully unfold.
Making judgments like good/bad and right/wrong block us from connecting to the essence of others and situations. And this is where we get into trouble. Our minds begin to create a story based on what we perceive is happening and then we make judgments based on that perception. These judgments are created from our past experiences and have nothing to do with what is happening in the moment. What if we paused and changed our perception, admitting to ourselves and our mind that we don’t really know what’s going on. We may think we know what is happening, and we may to some extent, but we are rarely privy to the full picture.
“What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.” — Epictetus
All things in the universe are made up of energy. And there is always a counter energy to every force. In Chinese philosophy it’s called the yin and yang, which are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects and we can feel this energy any time, which is just another example of how everything is energy. For instance, love and hate, now you may say these are emotions and not energies but they do have energy connected with them. We can all feel this energy anytime by paying attention to and sensing our body while we feel these emotions.
“To live a balanced life, we must be able to flow outwards when necessary, and to center inwards when necessary.” – Eknath Easwaran
The next time something happens in your life that is challenging or painful take a pause and ask yourself if you really know why it is happening or that you know what the outcome will definitely be. Then let go and take a different perspective and see if something changes or maybe everything will change. Can you possibly see something good arising from something perceived to be bad?
Each moment brings with it the rise of a new dawn and like the phoenix rising from the ashes we all have the opportunity to begin anew at any moment we choose. We can stand on that three-meter platform without fear and dive fully into the soul, leaving behind the baggage of the past. Release the fear of the future and remain present in the moment, fully rejoicing in the love of our creator.
Edited by Elaine Baskin