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Joy Necessitates Sorrow

By: Donna R. Wood, Existential Coach

“I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometime…”  ~ Lyn Anderson

Life isn’t always a garden of roses and sunshine. Sometimes, bad things happen, and often to good people. The why of it all is an existential given of the unknown. We may never know why bad things happen to good people, except the fact that life was never promised to us as a state of constant happiness.

Oftentimes today, we read about the pursuit of perpetual happiness as being the end goal of life; but is it really? The answer is a resounding no. Life is a natural ebb and flow of joy and sorrow, ease and struggle.

This is the danger of allowing our lives to be led strictly by our emotions, which can be limiting – if not paralyzing – to the fullness of our human experience. That is not to say that we should not experience emotions at all. The trick is to not allow ourselves to get stuck in the emotions.

Our emotional world, as a whole, is the greatest example of bodily felt wisdom. Our emotions are there to guide us, alert us, warn us, tell us, or inform us that what we are experiencing physically, socially, or spiritually has meaning, for better or worse. They are our compass to navigating the world in which we live.

AS AN EXAMPLE:

I was involved in a toxic work environment that lasted almost three years. In the beginning, my emotional reaction was on point. I just didn’t listen to it. I knew in the depths of my being that I should get out. At the time, I was emotionally invested in my job, as most people working in nonprofits are. The emotional entanglement and compassion for the people was my greatest strength, and yet became my downfall in the end.

I fought the good fight. I had used my core values of Integrity, Honesty, Loyalty, and Compassion to try to right a great wrong that was being perpetrated on those very same people whom we were supposed to be helping. As time wore on, my compassion for the people was sacrificed at the altar of self-preservation. I wasn’t trying to save my job. I knew that ship had already sailed, and it would only be a matter of time. I was desperately trying to hold onto to life itself.

I had allowed myself to get trapped in a web of emotions that not only ended my career, but rendered me unable to make any decisions at all. I was so deeply invested in the emotions of the events that my logical-self had gotten lost along the way. I had become paralyzed by fear. I didn’t know what would happen next, or which way to go. I was literally wandering through life – and I was lost.

All of this could have been avoided if I had listened to my bodily felt wisdom and left in the beginning. Other people were jumping ship from all sides, but not me. I was going to make it right, come hell or high water; and both came at me from all sides like a tsunami.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

If your body is evoking emotions that are warning you, trust yourself and know that whatever it is telling you is right. Practice the pause and consider all possible outcomes. This only applies at the beginning; at the moment that you know something is wrong. It can happen at work, as it did me, or in relationships, or even social circles. Don’t wait until you are so heavily invested – emotionally, financially, physically, or even spiritually that getting out will take an act of God.

Life isn’t always a rose garden filled with sunshine and happiness. It is how well we are prepared for the storms of life that will determine to what degree we experience happiness. Through great difficulties, great joys are born. Preparing for the storms means to know yourself, trust yourself, and most importantly – believe yourself, then act accordingly.

Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul should never be allowed to take root in our lives. Our soul is like a garden, and we the gardeners. If we allow the Dark Night of the Soul to take hold, it can become permanent.

Pain and suffering is part of the natural flow of life. We all experience the Dark Night of the Soul at different levels, for different reasons.

However, if we let the grief, hurt, shame, guilt, or regret to take hold, we may never get over it as long as we live.

The Dark Night of the Soul is event or situational based, and always temporary. It comes during times of significant change or transformation. The length and strength of the Dark Night of the Soul depends on the depth of our spiritual dimension of being, a.k.a. the foundation of life.

There is no deeper well than that of self-pity. We all have the occasional moment of “Why me?”, or even “Woe is me”. One of the tools readily available to one and all is self‑love.

Not the self-love associated with narcissism. The agape self-love – self-transcended love ‑ that allows us to look at ourselves as we are, not as we wish we were.

When we look at ourselves with self-love, we do so with compassion and empathy. We provide ourselves with good companionship as we look at the scars, flaws, and the beauty, and the goodness. We accept it for what it is and embrace it with a loving gentleness.

When we can honestly look at our deepest selves with love and compassion, we can identify what the real need is, and then seek that to heal our suffering.

Living a positive lifestyle does not protect us from pain and suffering in the world. Each comes to us all at different times, in different forms, because pain and suffering are, like us, part of the natural flow of life.

One of the ways to approach pain and suffering is to observe it, and accept it for what it is, and then to take action.

The first step in taking action is to lean-in to your beliefs. When we lean-in, we inspire the light that lives inside of us. When the light is inspired, hope is sparked and grows.

The second step is meeting our beliefs half-way and taking action in our lives to change the course to something more manageable, while guided by our beliefs.

The third step is to step outside of our worry and fear, and engage with others of our beliefs to gain a sense of support and security. Before we can be the change we want to see in the world, we have to be the change we want to see in our own lives.