The last decade weighs in as one of the most difficult of my life. Like being lost in a jungle after nightfall, threats seemed to lurk behind every tree. I often wondered, “Will I ever get out alive?”
Moments of desperation, hopelessness, and despair punctuated my generally optimistic disposition. At times, the breath of death rasped far too close, till I had to turn and look straight in its face.
Personal betrayal, loss and separation, nudged to let go of a dear career, mysterious illness, cross-country and cross-continental moves. On a stress scale all that adds up to a very high score. The stress then folds in on itself multiplying the angst even more. Perhaps this is par for the course in the human realm, but it all seemed exceedingly difficult, overwhelming, and endless to me.
Yet, I endured. I’m stronger, more resilient, and clear as a shiny new pot. At long last, the stars realigned in a more generous and friendly way, streaming the light of insight over all those dark years. So I thought I would share a selection of the potent lessons learned to encourage and inspire those who may be struggling with their own specially tailored version of adversity.
1. You can’t push the river, it flows by itself. Life flows in cycles of activity and receptivity, outer and inner focus, times to move forward, times to hold back. Good health is not necessarily a constant state of affairs. You are where you are. Wishing to be someplace else only creates frustration and discontent. In these complex modern times, so many attempt to mold their life to be at a continual high point of happiness or success. But unrelenting activity and resistance to the natural rhythms of life, only damages – and may even blow out – your physical, mental, and emotions systems. Accept where you are, relax and release. Have positive aspirations but don’t cling to them to0 tight.
2. The core answers always lie within. I spent countless hours and untold dollars looking for external solutions: vitamins, herbs, diets, doctors, healers, and the like. Being a problem solver, I wanted to “fix it” and move on. But, all these solutions just made me worse. No one can heal you if you are not open and ready and raring to go. Unless you are prepared to explore the dark corners of your mind, change will remain an elusive commodity. The secret is to look at where your resistance lies. This doesn’t mean you’re at fault for being so obtuse. The path is sometimes hidden until the right time.
3. Anger and blame alienates and isolates. Difficult circumstances and exasperating people would make me fume with frustration, anger, and blame. Ironically, these perverted forms of aggression were literally eating away at my gut. Grace allowed me to see how my projections and pugnacious demeanor were hurting primarily me. I learned to gradually replace anger with patience, at first. Then learned to cultivate love and compassion, taking small baby steps.
4. Impermanence will touch you again and again. It’s the natural course of life. So much of my suffering came from holding on too tight. Yet everything is dynamic, moving and shifting even as we speak. There’s absolutely nothing to grip onto because it’s all like a dream. True freedom lies in relaxing into this groundless quality, a subtle art to master as the sands shift one moment to the next.
5. I couldn’t care less. At some point, you have to let go of pleasing others, follow your own voice, and shape your own identity. People perceive you through their own colored glasses. They will think what they think. Be open to legitimate feedback, but don’t let yourself be pulled hither and thither by other people’s opinions, expectations and demands. Be true to yourself and think, “I couldn’t care less” about all the rest.
6. Stress kills. If it doesn’t literally kill you, it kills your joy, strength, and vitality. Stress is one of our greatest enemies in this day and age. I mistook it for normal life. Till I woke up one day with a body that had fallen apart. When you are young and vital, you will just never guess that stress is going to get you a few years down the road. This has been one of the hardest lessons to learn of all. Stress is not normal and I can’t do it all. Now I focus on the priorities and let the less important slide. I’m alert for signs of stress as soon as they arise and apply a relieving remedy.
7. It all depends on how you perceive. You are in charge of your mind; no one else. You’re mind is pliable; through training you can change it around. Positivity feels better for you and everyone else.
8. Love is the binder, the healer, the salve. Love will determine whether our civilization stands or falls.
9. Humankind is in imminent danger of extinction. This isn’t a joke. If you could smell what I smell when you walk into a clothing store, you would be alarmed and running to ring the red bell. It’s the cocktail of nasty chemicals freely applied to your dresses, t-shirts, and slacks by clothing factories in distant lands where labor is cheap. What can you do? Live simply with integrity. Don’t be afraid. Don’t succumb to anger or fear. Honor yourself, each other, and the earth.
10. Trust + Faith + Surrender + Humor. What a beautiful mix! Trust shifts will happen at the right time. Take positive actions but don’t cling too tight. Mindfulness and awareness is the ground of my groundlessness. Staying in the present moment slays all unnatural fear.
Is there a lesson here that resonated for you? What key lessons have stood out for you over the last decade? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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