By Susie Ekberg
Q: Things seem to be difficult for everyone at this time, and I’ve heard you say it’s also a time of spiritual growth. Why do those things have to go hand in hand? Or, do you think they HAVE to go hand in hand?
A: Yes, I’ve seen these current times as being very intense for most people, and yes, I DO think it’s a time of spiritual growth, but I don’t think these two always have to go hand in hand. Let me explain: we’re kind of hardwired from birth to avoid pain. What does a baby do when it’s hungry? Cry. What does a child do when she bangs her knee? Cry. What does an adult do when he can’t get tickets to the Vikings game? Cry. Hungry? Bad. Full? Good. We divide our world into essentially two distinct parts, then spend most of our days running from one and trying to hold onto the other.
“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” says William Shakespeare, and I think he’s right. WE assign the judgment to any given situation. We make it what it is with our perceptions, based on previous experiences and future expectations.
Many years ago someone close to me found out a loved one was dying. I was very sad, then mad, then stressed out. I felt helpless because I couldn’t DO anything. I couldn’t fix it for her. It was a bad, bad thing, right? Yes, it was. It was heartbreaking and so so sad, and yet… through it all we experienced many precious miracles and joys. It helped broaden my understanding of life and death, I got to experience the feeling of God inside of me, and I got some peace about some deep-seated spiritual struggles to boot. So was it good or bad then? I was able to see the good in the situation and open to it all – good AND bad and just sit with it, breathe with it, be with it. The result? An incredible expansion that I’m eternally grateful for.
When everything’s ‘good,’ it’s easy just to float along on auto pilot, not thinking about anything, worrying about anything, too anxious to change anything. It’s fine the way it is, right? But where does our growth come in? How can we learn to live a whole life if we’re only living in half of our experiences, those experiences we deem good? We can’t. We just can’t. We’re only living half a way, or maybe only acknowledging the half that’s desirable. The rest we ignore, run from, pretend it isn’t there (maybe it will go away). But my favorite poet offers us another vision:
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” – Kahlil Gibran
Will you always find your answers? Probably not, but it’s sure worth a short, isn’t it? Then you may find your life less frightening because you don’t have to stay hyper-alert with your hands gripping tightly to the steering wheel, watching for every danger and threat that may come your way. How can you be calm? Because you know that whatever happens, you’ll be able to handle it. You’ll be able to figure out what you need to do in the moment, not one second before. And that makes you very powerful, because you’re holding your energy 100% in you, not dispersing it by remembering the past or projecting into all the possible futures. Your spiritual knees are bent, you’re ready for anything, and for once in your life, you can look forward to tomorrow and the adventures it will bring, because whatever happens, you’ll be there, 100%, smack dab in the middle of it all, experiencing it fully, and THAT is why the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ go hand in hand all of the time.
Because the good and the bad are intimately intertwined and cannot be pulled apart. They are both a part of the Whole that does not have an opposite, even if we strive to make it so. And the miracle of it all is that when we can cease making things either good or bad we find our lives easier to navigate because our hands have eased their gripping, our eyes have ceased their squinting, and we can enjoy our life again, ALL of it, and that is where we can find our greatest joy.
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