There are people and things that are put into your life to challenge you, to teach you, and to inspire growth. I firmly believe this to be true.
I also believe this Eckhart Tolle quote: “Life will give you whatever experience is the most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”
I believe these things are true. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.
I have several things in my life currently that are challenging me. These experiences are helping me to grow and most certainly are helpful to the evolution of my consciousness. And I really, really, really wish they would stop!
I’m sure that these experiences have a lot to teach me. I believe that whatever is meant to be will be, and I know that I have to trust the universe to guide me in the flow of my life.
BUT THESE TEACHABLE EXPERIENCES ARE SO ANNOYING.
Even worse is my next belief.
Yup. So whatever is challenging me right now, at this moment – it has something to teach me. And it is NOT going away until I do my learnin’.
The thing is – I can’t force that education to happen. When I’m dealing with a challenge, I frequently have the urge to manage it, to struggle my way through it.
That doesn’t work. I have to let go. I can’t get out of growing by doing – I have to sit still and allow the universe to educate me.
To be clear – this is how I feel about this education:
When you’re in the middle of a lesson-learning life experience,all you can do is let go and have faith. So that’s what I’m doing. C’est la vie!
It got me thinking about spirituality and the unknown.
I grew up Catholic, but I don’t think of myself as very religious. I sometimes hear snippets of what I believe in music, like the aforementioned Indigo Girls song or The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams. But ever since I was in high school and got into daily arguments with my religion teacher over why women couldn’t be priests or what the big deal was with being gay or just what was with all the rules – I’ve never been able to find a religion or religious group that’s resonated with me.
However, I now think of myself as a pretty spiritual individual. I just don’t define my spirituality by any religious organization’s definition or creed. I enjoy Brene Brown’s definition of spirituality according to her research:
“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”
Growing up, I had pretty clear and specific religious beliefs. Now, everything’s more muddled. But I do believe that there’s a power greater than me, and having that belief makes my life a better and happier one.
To me, a lot of spirituality is just practical. To believe that there’s a power greater than me – well, of course there is. The world is spinning – wonderful things happen – terrible things happen – and none of those things are in my control. I don’t really believe in one specific greater being that makes the world turn; rather, I believe that there’s a balance to the universe that’s beyond my knowledge and power.
Sometimes things that are written off as naive or New Age-y just make sense to me. They’re practical.
Like gratitude. There’s a lot of talk about gratitude these days – keeping gratitude journals, making gratitude lists. Of course we feel better when we practice gratitude – we feel better when we think about things that make us happy! You can’t be grateful and negative at the same time. It’s just common sense.
It’s the same thing with being spiritual – or being an optimist. It doesn’t make sense to NOT be an optimist. If you’re an optimist, you believe things will work out for the best. If you’re right, and things work out well, then awesome. If you’re wrong, and things turn out terrible – you can deal with that when it happens, and you didn’t have to be in a crappy mood while the things were unfolding.
I hear a lot of people say that they’re not optimists – they’re realists. They think that being a pessimist or being a non-believer makes them practical. But if your ultimate goal is to have a happy life – then embracing spirituality, optimism, gratitude, and positivity is a realistic, practical, and sensible thing to do.
I have this really frustrating habit.
After a lovely evening of hanging out with friends, I will get a nagging feeling afterward, like I’ve done everything wrong, I’ve said everything wrong, and I’ve just been an altogether terrible person.
That’s probably not true. (Right? I also need constant reassurance, btw.) And it certainly doesn’t add to my fun or enhance my experiences.
I hang onto a lot of things. I remember things from years ago, and I go over them in my head, over and over and over again. These are not major events when I hurt someone or when I did wrong, mind you; I obsess about minor interactions I’ve had that probably no one else remembers.
This is not great for my happiness or for my balance.
This kind of negative self-talk can be really frustrating, as anyone who experiences it knows. You can get swallowed up by negative self-talk. It can turn a fun night with friends and family into a source of tremendous anxiety and self-doubt. You can be haunted by tiny mistakes from your past.
I’ve been struggling with this for years. And it’s not just about things from the past. I relate a lot to the kind of storytelling that Brene Brown talks about in her latest book, Rising Strong. We all tell ourselves stories, every day. I see a co-worker making a weird face, and I think to myself, She hates me.
That’s just a story I’m telling. Maybe it’s accurate, or maybe it’s not. But it’s not reality – it’s something I made up in my head.
I’ve been told that this habit is common with introverts, who are inclined to overthink the things they’ve said out loud.
So – what do I do about this?
I think I go back to what this blog is about – balance, letting go, and living in the flow.
It can be so hard to let go of things. It can even be hard to let go of things that suck and make our lives so much worse.
When I think about ways to let go of made-up stories that interfere with my happiness, I go back to mindfulness and faith. If I want to be happy, I have to keep myself in the present moment. (If you want to be anxious, live in the future, and if you want to be sad, live in the past – but, if you want to feel peaceful and happy, live in the now.) That’s mindfulness – keeping yourself present and focused in the current moment, not obsessing about something that happened fifteen years ago.
Then, there’s faith – having faith that things fall into place the way they’re supposed to. I always have to remind myself to have faith that these things I obsess about will resolve themselves, and that it’s okay to let go. Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care, or that things won’t work out the way you want them to. Letting go is about acknowledging that there’s a balance to everything in life, and that life will let you know when action is needed on your part.
Just like the trees, I am constantly living and learning and letting go. Hopefully, I’ll get better and better until I let go with the simplicity and grace that the autumn trees do.
I’m not a poetry buff, but I’ve always liked Mary Oliver. Her new book of poems, Felicity, came out a few weeks ago. Every now and then, Tee and I have been taking a moment and read one of the poems aloud.
This is the very first poem in the book:
Things take the time they take. Don’t
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?
Okay, universe. I get it. I’ll be patient.
There’s a spiritual sensibility to poetry – as if the writer is communicating on a deeper and more meaningful level. Personally, I’ve never been able to communicate on that level. I took a writing class in college and one of the assignments was a poem. My professor actually laughed at me a little, which is totally unprofessional but, in this case, absolutely understandable. I think the poem was just a string of my favorite words, all positive sunshine-y words, strung together – no deeper meaning, no subtle message, nothing.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a hardcore poetry lover, but I am enjoying Mary Oliver’s words. It’s amazing how much power a short, sweet, and simple poem can have – it reminds me of play therapy, how much powerful work can be done using symbolic play . Sometimes, what is simple is true. Sometimes, what is simple is magnificent.
Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answers: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing,
not going to the mall, not the Super
“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?”
The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”