Have you ever felt like the world is collapsing around you? Like nothing you do can stop the onslaught of fear, sorrow, or desperation that floods your mind and your body? Have you ever been laid so low that you thought you would never recover?
Of course you have. We have all shared moments of our lives that were devastating. The end of a relationship. The death of a loved one. The end of a career or life-long dream. A diagnosis of a serious health problem. A long-term battle with severe depression. A devastating addiction. Any of these experiences can strip us down, test our willingness to keep going in life.
In trying times like these, so many people that I work with feel an almost unrelenting anxiety or sorrow at the state of the world. But there are a few things that you can guide you through these times. Here are a few of the realizations that have helped me through some of the biggest challenges in my life:
First, your life is not determined by your circumstances.
The story is not over until the casket is closed. This means you have a choice whether or not your circumstances will lead you to that casket. If this is what you choose, then game over. All of the things you have lived through, all of the beautiful and hurtful experiences that you have had will go with you. Every possibility that you have to help someone that is also suffering through a difficult time in their life will be extinguished. Angeles Arrien said, “We are all unique medicine.” That is not to be taken lightly. Your resilience and your willingness to heal your wounds is what makes you a gift to the rest of the world. Your medicine is what you give when you share your experience with those that are suffering through similar dark times.
Second, every myth has a wounded protagonist.
Not hero, but protagonist; the main character. In the mythic life that you are living, you are the protagonist. You have been wounded before in your life. You will be wounded again. The difference between whether the story of you will be shared for future generations or fall back into the creative void of forgotten characters is what you do with your wound. In shamanic societies, a budding shaman will undergo a full dismemberment. This is a total destruction of the ego-self (in some cases the dismemberment is more than psychological). To become who we must be to bring our medicine into the world we have to undergo the tearing down of who we think we are, over and over again.
Third, the path to wisdom is through surrendering in gratitude.
Sorrow will find you. It is the nature of this existence. To seek to be perpetually happy is a self-centered, adolescent endeavor. Happiness will arise in your life, but it cannot be expected to remain every waking moment. You cannot frame it like a picture and expect that it will always be around. On the other hand, gratitude for your being alive is a perpetual state of being that you can maintain regardless of your circumstances. When we understand that the gift of life is something to be grateful for without desiring to control how it arises, everything becomes a blessing. Better said, when we feel the blessing of living in our bones then we can take both the joy and the sorrow as a testament to our being a part of something much greater than ourselves. Something that for the briefest instant has given us the immense blessing of being here and now. When we reach this point, every moment is sacred, every day is an opportunity to share that sacredness with everyone and everything we come in contact with.
Fourth, your wounds are an invitation to a bigger role in the Cosmic Story.
Through your wounds, you are brought into a deeper communion with all that is. Not as a spectator or a voyeur, but as a willing participant. What you have lived is not just about you, it is about how you can heal from it and use your experience to serve others. Our sense of purpose is intimately woven with our deepest wounds. It is a principle we find in all aspects of nature. The medicines that heal us, when used in excess, are the poisons that kill us. Likewise, the things that are in some cases venomous are in others used to heal. When it comes to the emotional wounds that we have carried in our lives we are the vessels that can transform the pain into medicine. The choice is ours to make. And again, this is not an easy task. But it is a necessary one. This is especially true when considering the current state of our species and our planet. The world desperately needs healers. It needs visionaries. It needs those courageous enough to step into the healing ground of their own wounds with a willingness to heal for the sake of all beings.
Wait, but this is too big, you may say. Well, maybe. Ultimately the choice is up to you. This is a calling, not a counterculture. It is a beckoning for those that will awaken to the deeper task at hand: to lay down the obsession with “my story” and become a devoted servant of “THE STORY.” The one that encompasses all of us, our ancestors, the Earth that has always been the source of life, and all of the generations that will follow. Your story does not end with your personal cataclysms, it only begins if you have the courage to use them to serve the Whole.
Photo: Getty Images