Looking back over the course of one’s life, two sorts of memories tend to stick out: the exceptionally good times, events, and experiences, and the exceptionally difficult or trying times, events, and experiences. At least for me, the challenging times seem to hold more energy as they are easiest to recall in the greatest detail. I suppose like a physical wound, emotional trauma tends to leave behind scar tissue that serves as a painful reminder of even long-healed injuries.
The great lesson from our personal histories is, no matter how high and elated one gets during an up cycle or how low and despondent one feels during a downturn, it ALL passes by. It’s all temporary.
We live just outside of Chicago. Chicago is a sports-centric town. When the Cubs finally became a competitive franchise and eventually won the World Series, the area was riding a high like I’ve never seen. The normally downtrodden Cubs fans were smiling, hopeful, and energized, boldly anticipating a dynasty that would last generations. Similar emotions were present when the Blackhawks emerged from obscurity to win several Stanley Cups, and when the 1985 Bears won the Superbowl. The key takeaway? None of it lasted. They were all brief periods of unparalleled joy; lofty peaks of ecstasy poking above a frothing sea of averageness.
The same holds true for down times. Subconsciously, we know they won’t last. But unlike those extraordinary moments when we are flying high, exhilarated, and on top of the world, the down times are painful and trying, draining us of hope and determination. The peaks are easy to ride because they feel good. The valleys are dreadful because they feel crappy.
In the final analysis, it’s all about energy. It’s easier for humans to identify with the higher and faster vibrations attendant with good times because we are intrinsically high vibration spiritual beings. The lower and slower energies are more foreign and unsettling to us because they reside in the physical realm of our dual natures and thus don’t match our fundamental composition.
I am starting to understand that during down times, the reason we often find ourselves suffering from a dark unhappy mindset is because our intellect can’t envision a reasonable solution to or path through our difficulty. Most humans, men especially, are problem solvers. We see something amiss, we want to take action and fix it. But how can we fix that which we don’t fully understand?
When we’re living through the unpleasantness of a low energy experience, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. It is during those times when we are most deprived of clarity, most disconnected from Source, and most overcome by fear. The primordial monkey mind is programmed to protect us from danger and destruction by conjuring up a possibility – one and only one possibility among the many possibilities that exist in the Now of all things – which represents a worst case scenario ego wants to protect us from. Keep in mind this is but one mere possibility, not the only possibility. Nevertheless, we have a difficult time letting go of that image once it shows up, and we often draw it deeper into our experience by giving it our constant attention.
First, you must believe that whatever is happening is for your greatest good. All experience is about learning something you need to evolve your immortal soul. Sometimes those lessons are difficult. Regardless they have a purpose designed by Spirit as a prod to move you onto a higher rung of the evolutionary ladder. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it’s often easy to look back at difficult or unpleasant experiences and see the hand of God at work. “Ah – now I see. If x hadn’t happened, I never would have experienced y.”
Shaltazar advises us to start by acknowledging the unpleasant feeling or fear, accept it, and let it speak. Similarly, in her book Radical Compassion, Tara Brach talks about dealing with difficult emotions by applying R-A-I-N which stands for Recognize (what is happening), Allow (the experience to be there just as it is), Investigate (the feelings with interest and care), and Nurture (the feelings with self-compassion). So if we could only allow ourselves to totally feel whatever fear comes up, embrace it and not run away from it, we would see that it moves through us. Fear is merely an illusion, a thought, a perception of what may come, not a preview of what will.
If our fears represent only one possible outcome, you could try to think of a different more favorable possible outcome, and “feel it on” for size. A fear is nothing more than a detrimental self-limiting belief. Once you recognize it as such, it begins to lose its power. So try using your imagination to come up with a different, higher vibrating belief that is more in line with your desire, and tell yourself a different story than the one the fear is handing you. You may not be able to instantaneously move from a lower, slower vibration to higher and faster, but getting to neutral is a good first step toward feeling better.
Of course applying these concepts is easier said than done when you’re entangled in an unpleasant experience. Although intellectually I know there is purpose behind what is happening and I need to embrace the feelings that result, my initial reaction is to question why this thing is occurring at this time in my life. Did I attract it? Did I do something wrong? What am I supposed to learn? How long will it last? How do I get it to stop or go away?
It may seem counterintuitive to a left-brain problem solver, but the first step in getting to neutral and beyond may well be to stop trying to figure it out. Why the unpleasant thing is here is irrelevant. It’s here. So what do we do with it?
And that isn’t to say we should stop asking questions. Questioning what’s going on in our lives is a key component of the learning process. Awareness plus curiosity equals growth. The problem is the fear of what we don’t know or understand begets a vicious cycle of wondering, searching, and pushing for answers which only creates more questions until the search for answers becomes obsessive and frustrating.
But what if we could accept that we aren’t responsible for both asking and answering the questions? What if instead you could allow the question to pop into your head in a calm, non-urgent way with no concern for which answer is correct or when it might come, and then wait patiently for the universe to bring you the answer? You would have to surrender the need to come up with your own answers. You would have to let go of the need to know. You would have to relax and allow the answers to come forth in their own time, trusting that the answers will indeed come.
If I was to try to distill all this down into a useful set of tools, I’d say the first step would be to pause, take a breath, and become fully and dispassionately aware of the situation. From this calm, neutral place, go ahead and ask your questions – all the whats and whys and hows, which may include:
- How is this situation making me feel?
- Where is this feeling coming from?
- Where does this feeling live in my body and can I send love to that place?
- If the feeling is fear, what is it that I’m afraid of?
- What am I to learn from this experience?
- What does Spirit have to tell me with regard to resolving this situation and getting to a better feeling place?
Then let it go, tune into your feelings, listen, and wait for the universe to respond. With patience and practice, you will find the answers do come.
This is one of the Messages from Shaltazar that inpired this article: