Triggered by some of the international news, I wanted to share some wisdom that not only helped me overcome some huge obstacles in life but that helped countless people I know overcome some really harsh realities.
More than a decade ago, I attended a course in which, reflecting on my life, I realized that I have the ability to own all the choices I made in life whether I was aware of it at the time or not. This wasn’t an easy switch to make, but it was a complete state change for me. Once you get that no matter what happens to you (which you cannot control), you can choose how you react to it, you lose the desire to dwell in being a victim of your circumstance. To clarify, you can be a victim of the crime because something physically did happen to you (this is a legal terminology) but you don’t have to be a victim of the freedom to choose what you do about it (fight for justice, walk away and focus on something else, go to therapy to release it, etc).
This is much easier said than done. We are complex beings and mostly, we are really not choosing unless we are intentional about it. What is determining our feelings and thinking is, in large, not just a response to what already happened to us, but the cultural conditioning we were raised inside of. Said another way: nobody thinks clearly by default, everyone is always seeing things from the filter of their own past, conditioning, environment etc. Our conversations in life are, for the most part, like one constructed ego arguing with another about who is wrong and who is right. The truth is always, both are right to feel and think how they think because their conditioning is valid, but both are wrong in reality because neither is really coming from an actual source of who they are and arriving at their conclusions freely.
This is a massive “mind-bend” if you ask me. If we know that we are so pre-programmed, how do we get out of it? It is a bit like that Chinese toy that looks like a cylinder in which you can stick your finger in each side. When you try to pull your fingers out, the cylinder tightens and your fingers get stuck. To get unstuck, you need to push your fingers inside towards one another, contrary to logic in a way, and that widens the opening of the cylinder and lets your fingers free. Said bluntly, “THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH.”
In the past 15 years or so, having done so many self reflective types of work on myself and having gone through the grinder with it, I realized: the work on ourselves is never done. We never really arrive at the enlighetment or top of the mountain that doesn’t instantly takes us back to feeling the impact of our ego or seeing the bottom of another mountain. Working on ourselves is like dealing with dirty laundry, it’s never done. You do a load and fold it up/put away and then you go to bed and put whatever you wore back into the bin to pile up until you can wash your clothes again. If you are thinking you can just stay naked to avoid that, notice you would be a victim of laundry being done which doesn’t really give you a lot of freedom to do other things now, does it? (I just went there myself btw.)
It is impossible to always be perfectly ON, “woke”, clear and so on. It’s just not how humans are designed and how life works. But there is a real difference between knowing we are flawed as people and letting the people off the hook. It is not ok to hold people against the standard we set for them (Example: being annoyed at your man for not bringing you flowers you never asked him to bring you, expecting him to read your mind that he should do this or that for your anniversary when that was neither your request nor something you did in the past that would prompt him to think of it). However, it is ok to look at people in organizations, roles and jobs that have a set way of operating and hold them to their standard (Example: when Whole Foods tell me they would deliver food between 12-4pm and they deliver it at 5pm, I call them on it and ask for some compensation for their impact on my day and time. I don’t do that because I am mean, I am holding them to the promise they made and nothing other than that).
We have to allow this to be a learning curve for all. Everyone will at some point in their life be late even if it was impossible to them to avoid it (tragedies happen, circumstances can be beyond our control). It is up to us to own that regardless of what caused our lateness, that we were late. Trying to gain sympathy for the unavoidable, while completely human and legit, cheapens this bond to our promise and if we let ourself go down that rode, there is no coming back.
With the most recent work on self-discovery, I realized that even most emotional of events, if we don’t release them, can hold us hostage. This is such a difficult conversation to have because people are so protective of their wounds – and rightfully so. I think that over time, we covered up so much of our personal pain that when someone asks us to let it go, it is like asking us to give up the only thing we know. If that is all we know, we grow comfortable with it and start defining ourselves accordingly so any disturbance to it or other people’s suggestion to let the pain go feels like a real threat. It feels uncomfortable and unsafe, as unknown usually is.
Letting go of pain isn’t that simple because if we simply just let it go, we bypassed the enormous lesson that pain can bring us. We ignore it’s lesson. If something bad happened to us, we can’t avoid that it happened. We have to mine for it’s wisdom or we forever become a victim of it. Is it true that this tragedy means this or that? Of course not, but it’s a powerful way to reframe it and file it away such that our life doesn’t become about avoiding similar thing in a future. And, while avoiding same thing from happening is wise and part of learning, if we focus on avoiding X, then our life consequently becomes about X and avoiding it. Our brains are designed to do just that, to mine for things that feel unsafe whether or not they are that in reality. If they “seem” unsafe, we will worry about them just the same. This is a great way to protect ourselves, but I ask, do you want to live a life of protecting yourself or actually being free and alive?
We can’t replay the pain or let it go, not at first. I truly believe, and evidence in my life has shown me clearly, that we have to allow ourselves to experience it and to experience it fully. To discover wisdom in adversity, tragedy or pain we feel around it, we need to allow it. Allowing something to be drops our guard and resistence to it. We can see where we feel it in our body. Is our chest feeling tight, is there a lump in our throat, do we feel tongue tied or paralized from the waist down. Where is the pain, or more specifically, where is the sensation you feel? If we stay curious, plugged in and aware, we will inevitably feel peace in this process because when we don’t resist life, life just IS and when life just is for us, we are free.
Again, this isn’t easy and it’s not a one time deal. I wish it was because I would write a manual and give people the key to living life powerfully. It doesn’t work that way. Life is not about arrival, about having something but about being something moment to moment, about discovering something day in day out and about continually arriving into the present moment because the truth is always and only in the present moment, in the NOW.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a very outgoing, bubbly, and a go-go-go type of person. I can talk miles an hour and be in that mode for days to come, and yet, I do my best work when I take a breath and light a candle and take a second to be where I am, to collect my attention from looking at the past or the future and see what is actually right in front of me. Having 2 small kids definitely teaches me to be more present because when I am not, I am instantly reacting and getting resentful. When we don’t feel good, it’s a sure sign we are not present.
I wrote this because I see news all the time and how some people take advantage of the tragic things that happened to them in the past. Writing to anyone directly isn’t ok because they are not asking me for my view nor are they a request to change. But I do feel compelled to share these things. They are not of my own creation, but the years of learning and practicing things in my life and with my clients. As with everything, wisdom doesn’t come from us but through us and that should be liberating for all of us. We can see ourselves as being in a flow allowing us to channel the good and work through the debris.
Thank you for reading this to the end. If you are pulled to do so or struggling with something that seems like an obstacle that cannot be overcome or feels to you like a real fork in a road, talk to someone, allow someone to witness you and share their wisdom or how they see it. You don’t have to take their word for it, but stay in the inquiry. We all make up things and see it through the filter of our own experience but when we see the filter, even for a moment, we can go beyond what is predictable and get into the magic of the unknown. And if you have nobody that can listen to you in such way, write to me and I will support you through it as I did myself and many people in my practice.