When we are in a low state of mind, it’s tempting to try to change things. But if we try to work on the “self” that we perceive when we are low, we are essentially remodeling the basement in hopes of getting a penthouse. What we are experiencing is always and only a projection of thought, and if we leave it alone, thought will invariably change all by itself. But please, don’t take my word for it. Play with this. Wonder about it. And let me know what shows up for you. ♥
Insight often leaves us with a good feeling, so it’s understandable that we may conflate feeling good with being wise or insightful. But our underlying wellbeing and access to wisdom don’t go away when we are in low moods or experiencing emotional pain. They may (or may not be) obscured, but they are certainly not absent.
It seems to me that nothing can be truly wasted in the universe. That all of life is interconnected and of immense, if sometimes unknown, value. Perhaps when we experience dark nights of the soul our hearts are being educated in ways that language cannot capture. Just as the beauty of flowers is nourished in the darkness below ground, the beauty of our hearts may be nourished by sadness and other challenges.
This is not a call to figure out what your heart is being taught during tough times. Far from it! If analysis and figuring things out were adequate to the task, there would be no call for this silent, deep education. Rather, simply know that nothing, including your pain, is ever wasted. Trust that your heart and soul are unfolding just as perfectly as the crocus or the flowering tree. Give yourself over to your experience and know that it is not the measure of your value or your possibilities.
There’s a huge difference between being activated/reactive and being awake and effective. You don’t need to fan the flames of righteous indignation or fear in order to stay awake. Becoming over reactive, winging yourself up, may create a temporary feeling of power, but it reduces your effectiveness. This is as true in civil discourse and political action as it is across the breakfast table.
You can use your awareness of the difference between being activated and being grounded to help you stay the course over the long term rather than riling yourself up, spinning out, and burning out.
Contentment is connection with inherent wellbeing, resilience, and resourcefulness. Far from being a passive retreat from the problems of the world, it is the foundation for deep engagement.
Jenny Offill makes this observation about suffering in Tricycle Magazine, “The Buddhists say there are 121 states of consciousness. Of these, only three involve misery or suffering. Most of us spend our time moving back and forth between these three.”
What’s up with that? What if the primary cause of getting stuck in suffering is worrying about suffering?
The ability to simply not know is key to having new thought. I first learned of not knowing from Charlie Badenhop of Seishindo. From him I learned of the importance of engaging with not knowing with an open mind, heart, and body. To not know in this way invites wonder–a very different thing from the style of not-knowing typified by confusion.
When we experience not knowing as confusion, the aperture through which we perceive possibilities shrinks. When we simply don’t know in a state of wonder, it is as if we are expanding the aperture through which we perceive both external and internal, material and metaphysical reality. We have new thoughts. We see new connections.