“Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.”— Mao Zedong
Right now the world is in turmoil on multiple levels, and it can feel incredibly overwhelming. Simply getting through the day-to-day challenges of meeting myriad bill payments, overcoming difficulties at work or in your business, dealing with irritating health issues in a positive and productive manner, and finding your feet as a stable, resilient parent can absorb all of our energy. The bigger social and global issues then either feel way beyond our ken, or serve as a welcome distraction from our own – something we can actually get our teeth into, from afar, whilst knowing we won’t be judged on the outcome by our peers.
Apart from my own battles, I am intensely aware of family and friends who are really questioning themselves right now, and more often than not, they believe they are failing. This breaks my heart to witness and hold space for, not just because they’re close to me, but because I feel quite helpless in easing their pain. As an empath, I feel others’ pain deeply, as if it were my own. And more than anything, I want to take away, or at least help to minimise that pain for them.
But what I learned through my own intense and tsunami-like challenges these last few years, is that being saved is not the answer. I know that’s hard to swallow when you’re in the thick of things, when you’re literally drowning in the midst of your life… I understand, trust me.
As mammals, we are naturally designed to exist in survival mode. It’s our default. We seek out safety, shelter, food and procreative opportunities. That’s a fact. Where we differ from our fellow mammals is that we also have the cognitive capacity to misinterpret, blow out of all proportion, or even completely ignore our instinctive, basic needs and signals. (Ever delayed going to the toilet for hours just because you were on a deadline?).
This ‘false control’, I believe, is the greatest issue we currently face as a population – and that which could very well wipe us out completely. It has disconnected our minds and bodies. It has ridiculed spirituality, the power of energy, and interconnectedness. It has created addicted consumers out of all of us.
And yet this cognitive ‘control’ has a light side too: it allows us to move through our struggles and learn from them; it allows us to be transformed, reborn. It is our very own, personal and collective, alchemical toolkit! We can choose to learn from every hill, every stumble, and even every soured relationship. This is not to belittle those things that raze our very souls to the ground in the moment; rather to acknowledge that we will rise again. We will rise again. We will rise again and again and again!
Falling and failing are such a normal and regular part of our existence and our growth that it’s quite ridiculous we have ever been conditioned to believe otherwise. Yes! It can be humiliating, terrifying, heartbreaking, and often – truthfully – traumatising. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 6 1/2 years, it is that few of us go through life without experiencing some kind of emotional (and perhaps physical) trauma. And while normalising it does not make it less of an intense experience, I have found personally and through many others like me, that the knowledge of shared pain affords us comfort. It gives us a little more permission to show up, to gently move through the shame and guilt and feelings of unworthiness, and to be softer with ourselves.
When I started my TSW journey, I embarked upon it with military intentions: putting myself on a strict raw vegan cleanse, exercising and weighing myself fanatically, and all with the rigid expectation that I’d be “healed” within 3 months. This is precisely what I mean by ‘false control’. My body knew otherwise. It understood that I had far more to heal than just an irritating skin condition! And the moment I stopped suppressing that instinctive knowledge with drugs, my body began to relate exactly what it needed from me. Top of the list were:
As someone who has always pushed and had my eye on the ultimate goal (with infinite impatience), learning to relinquish control was not a lesson I had to learn once but many, many, many, many times over. Likewise, for being softer. Self-compassion was extremely hard-won. Learning to be willing to appear weak and even irritatingly ineffective, pathetic, and lazy in others’ eyes was excruciating – yet the experience of TSW, late miscarriage, eviction, financial destitution, deep depression, loss of self, chronic isolation and marital ruptures saw to it that I had no choice. Or rather, the choice became polarised: mere survival was no longer on the menu – I had to choose either to drown with definite finality, or to rise up and drag myself to higher ground.
This is the message I’d like you to take away today. For you, and everyone your energy touches, SURVIVAL IS NOT A ‘CHOICE’:
As a human spirit, I urge you to choose today to alchemise your life, and move out of survival mode. Take the baby steps. Be infinitely, patiently and lovingly kind to yourself. Seek help. Be vulnerable (with the right people).
Share your struggles. Listen to others’ struggles. Look for the common ground. Remind yourself (again and again and again) we are more alike than unalike: separation is cognitive false control. And when we finally accept that struggle is communal, perhaps we can also finally accept that honouring our struggle and allowing ourselves to rise back up is also the norm. Let me drive this home with my favourite Brené Brown quote:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”Brené Brown
Ultimately, it’s all about how we choose to rise up. It’s also about how we truly see and honour ourselves in that struggle. This is what makes the difference between a “challenging” time and a really stressful one which leaves us grappling for footholds.
In this last quarter of 2019, how will you choose to define it? How will you choose to rise out of it?