A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine pointed me towards a book that she had read that had really touched her. “Love Warrior”, by Glennon Doyle Melton, documents the authors struggles with alcohol, bulimia, marriage, parenthood and infidelity. It’s a truly inspiring book, that led me to send my friend the following note:
“…this is actually a beautiful story about what it is to be human and wake up to the fact of our true and whole Spiritual nature. Its messy. Its raw. It’s the whole live your life thing. A reminder that the beauty [of life] is in bumping up against the imperfection of it and in so doing waking up to the perfection of the game that’s being played”.
Essentially the book is about waking up to the sheer presence of God, in everything, through living through the struggles of our human existence.
Sometimes life can seem brutal. Sometimes it hits you with a metaphorical hammer. The purpose it seems is to wake you up to something deeper about yourself. The author even has a word to describe this process: “brut-iful”.
I have lost track of the number of times that I have found myself in circumstances which really felt bad in the moment, only to realise in hindsight that there was wisdom and even intelligence behind what I went through.
Some of you who read my blog will know that in 2007 I became ill with something that led to a chronic fatigue state that left me dealing with symptoms for the next 7 years. It was absolutely no fun at the time, and definitely not on my list of goals for my best year yet.
I suffered and cried a lot during that period. I literally watched as every single part of my life took a u-turn in a direction that looked scary and just downright wrong. My physical condition definitely worsened for all the period I resisted what was happening.
But you may be surprised to hear that I feel no regret or remorse for what happened all those years ago. In fact, I feel gratitude. You see that experience set me out on a journey of exploration that led me to seeing more of what true resilience is. It taught me acceptance, love under difficult circumstances, and the physical healing that I went through directly enabled me to help a number of people who have been similarly afflicted by chronic fatigue. Some for as long as 23 years.
So I see intelligence in what I went through. In fact I now see that a huge part of what enables me to help others with their issues, is the fact that they can see that I suffered too.
These days what I see is that whenever I suffer, its an invitation. An invitation to look at the nature of the suffering, and where it truly lies. It’s also an invitation for me to look deeper at the nature of who I really am.
It turns out given the results of the recent US election, that this could be quite helpful for all of us.
The morning of the results, many woke up and felt worried, disappointed and even frustrated. I had deliberately stayed away from the US election banter as much as possible, but was hit with people’s reactions as soon as I woke up that day. It was a little hard to avoid with all the means of communication that we have nowadays.
I must admit I did have a reaction that wasn’t particularly positive.
But I also had to accept that clearly the way the President elect sees the world spoke to the majority of the American public.
Are they wrong and me right? Or is it the other way around?
Well perhaps seeing it in this dualistic way is not particularly helpful.
You see the biggest problem I have with political campaign’s in general, is that often they feed divisiveness and separation. They feed the illusion that there is a set of circumstances that can be created that will alleviate the pain of their citizens.
I don’t wish to challenge the content of those political claims. Nor do I challenge the fact that clearly there are social and welfare concerns that can be addressed.
Instead I wish to gently challenge the place within us where we address them from. Are we addressing such concerns from a place of inherent wellbeing within ourselves? Do we see genuinely that we are okay no matter what?
You see there’s a problem if we don’t. Even if the new President elect is able to address all the things that are supposedly causing people suffering (no mean feat in itself) it won’t actually alleviate the suffering! Why? Well, the human mind is where suffering is ultimately created. The nature of it is such that it has this remarkable ability to come up with new problems that look like they affect our wellbeing, and which supposedly require solutions. And that’s just what will happen. To the mind there will always be a place that looks better than where we are.
The key to alleviating that suffering is not to build walls or control social groups necessarily. It’s to help people realise that underneath the noise of their thinking, they are fundamentally okay.
Underneath it all, our experience of life is not dictated by politics, the level of money in our bank accounts or any such circumstance. This is why you can have a billionaire (no similarities intended to the President elect), with seemingly every opportunity open to them who can be unhappy and, on the other more extreme end, a Nazi concentration camp survivor (Viktor Frankl) who can find their wellbeing, even in the midst of being tortured.
Now, equally, for those of us who have have had a glimpse into understanding how the mind works, it doesn’t help for us to get caught up thinking that there is such a thing as a good or bad election result! All that will do is actually perpetuate the division and separation that has stirred people up so much in the first place!
Yes there will be a period of mourning if we didn’t get the result we wanted. That’s normal and human, and totally fine to experience.
But as our minds and our judgemental thoughts settle, we’ll go home to that space of wellbeing and love for our fellow man. From there it’ll be up to us to walk our talk and be in this space even more than we ever have.
You see this feeling of being okay is what everyone seeks.
It’s being in this space, despite an election result, that will help people to see, via our very presence, where their freedom really is. It’s this that will help people wake up and see something deeper about the nature of their suffering, and in so doing help them to transcend it. Will it be easy? No, sometimes it won’t. But if it’s possible for a Nazi concentration camp survivor, might it also be possible for you and I? At the very least, it seems, it’s the direction we need to look to:
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves her. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in her, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
Viktor Frankl, Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor, Author of “Man’s Search For Meaning”.
With all my love,