At different points in my life I have bought into the idea that life could be the utopia I heard about in the storybooks.
Certainly when I was younger I believed that it was possible to find Prince Charming, settle down with two kids, a dog, and a white picket fence…..okay, my picture perfect life was a little more unconventional than the proverbial white picket fence, but the idea was the same. I would achieve my version of happily ever after with minor bumps in the road but nothing that would challenge me to the core. If I worked hard and did the opposite of everything my mother had done, I would become the one that pulled myself up by my bootstraps and overcame a difficult childhood. It didn’t happen.
The fantasy that I can find overnight success, fall effortlessly into romantic bliss without risk or vulnerability, navigate the parenting years with confidence and ease, and sail gracefully into the twilight years without regret, heartbreak, failure, and a health issue here and there….well, it’s just that, a fantasy. And it leaves me wallowing in a puddle of self-pity, wondering, “Why me?”
Life is hard. Fumbling through Dark nights, trekking across arid deserts, and falling into the deep abyss of the unknown are required terrain. Required. Which doesn’t mean “inevitable but try to stay away from it as much as possible.” It also doesn’t mean, “it’s inevitable and hopeless so just resign yourself to a life of despair.”
It means the mountaintop moments are just as much a part of the journey as the valleys, and at the end of the road, its not how long we lingered at the top of the mountain that matters but how open our hearts were regardless of the terrain. If I only embrace life at the top of the mountain, my life will only be half lived.
If I choose an open heart, I will certainly feel the pain of loss, failure, disappointment, and betrayal. If I choose to remain defended, I will feel the pain that results from the blocked intimacy and connection as well as the loss of integrity from striving to get something without being willing to give of myself in return. I can’t cheat life. I am going to feel pain. The only question is, what kind of pain will I feel? The soft pain that comes from melting into the acceptance of an imperfect world? Or the hard pain of resisting, denying, and refusing to love what is?
Long ago I made the choice to learn to live and love as fully as possible. Deep into my dark night of the soul, standing at that fork in the road, I wandered down the path less travelled, the path of inner spiritual work, and it has changed the course of my life so dramatically that words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the richness, depth and aliveness I encounter when I embrace each terrain with acceptance and humility. The teachings of the Pathwork have shown me a different way to live, and I continue to learn more every day.
Even so, I still have moments when I slip back into thinking there is such thing as a quick fix, a lottery I might win that could buy entrance to the Garden of Eden, some sort of self-improvement I can achieve that will exempt me from pain. In these moments I temporarily step back on the hamster wheel of life, exhausting myself in the effort to finally arrive at good enough, happy enough, safe enough, or spiritual enough … and then I remember:
The goal isn’t to escape pain and achieve pleasure.
The goal isn’t to be the most athletic participant on the hamster wheel.
The goal is to get off the wheel, embrace all of life as fully as I am able, and in so doing experience the beauty and integrity and peace that both includes and yet transcends the dualistic world of pleasure and pain.
This is what Pathwork Lecture 253 promises if we agree to get off that wheel:
“You will experience at some time the incomparable peace of no longer fearing what you do not want and no longer reaching anxiously and strenuously for what you do want. You will know that all that could ever be desirable is right here, attainable right now, ever-present at the tips of your fingers… So you will truly become still and know God. You will know God in all that is, in the best and worst, in what you want and what you do not want.”
When so many others are busy counting the rotations of their wheel, I can sometimes forget that there is another way. So today I’m here to remind you, as I often need reminding myself:
Get off that wheel. Just get off. Get off and you will truly come to know God in all that is. What a gift!
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TREASURE IN THE DEPTHS: Identifying Hidden Obstacles to Fulfillment.
Your article was thought provoking to me. I daily live with the consequences of poor decisions and the acceptance of the responsibility I alone bear. I am left stuck. Constantly just barely getting by even though I have wonderful adult kids and a woman who cares for me. I’m 54, own a struggling business and am so tired often. I don’t know why I told you any of this but thank you for your insightful words. Have a good day.
Your welcome John, and thanks for sharing!