“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
~ Carl Jung
Yesterday someone well known in American ‘New Age’ circles told me something that I found quite preposterous. In fact, I found it a little dangerous…
They said that if I was ‘truly enlightened’ and ‘living from my heart’ I would be 100% positive and happy all the time. From that place of 100% positivity I would heal, but if I still had even one ‘negative’ thought, felt one shred of sadness, or doubt, or depression, then I was destined to remain sick, miserable and ‘enmeshed in my pain body’.
Really? I’m sorry, that just doesn’t wash with me. With my thinking I am 100% responsible for my life and everything in it, and how it intersects with everything and everyone else? No room for fate? No room for God? No room for nature or circumstance? No room for life and humanity’s magnificent complexity and diversity? According to this person, if I am suffering or have a problem, it’s simple. My situation is all my fault. I caused it with my thinking or my ‘lower vibration’.
As to being ‘truly enlightened’ I’m sure that if I were, I wouldn’t be down here, going through all of this. And neither would the self-professed guru.
My truth is that I’m human, journeying through life, and doing the best that I can. Where I am able, I reach out and help others. Some days it’s all I can do to help myself. To sit in a place where I felt compelled to dishonour my truth by being 100% positive and without ever having a single ‘negative’ thought would make me neurotic, and erode any sense of self-worth I had: oh the guilt (another negative thought!) that would come with any less-than-happy emotion. What catastrophe might I cause in my life with that? What suffering might I cause for others?
But this person got me thinking, searching that big fat heart of mine. And what I know in my own heart is this:
It’s okay to feel down sometimes. Or to have a thought or feeling that is not 100% positive. In fact, it’s normal.
Take, for example, sadness.
Sadness is an appropriate human emotion for many of the situations we find ourselves in.
When a relationship ends.
When a loved one dies.
When someone hurts our feelings, or we hurt someone with something we said or did.
When we miss someone.
When something that’s important to us goes missing or gets broken.
When there is suffering, disaster or catastrophe in the world, even when it happens far from our own shores.
When we suffer a setback or a disappointment.
When we’re exhausted or overwhelmed.
When we have problems in our lives.
Life is wonderful, but it’s also messy, painful and sometimes just plain hard. We’ve become so caught up in that cult of personality – looking good, white teeth, perfect hair, charisma, being outgoing and outspoken, being judged well by others, having it all and being bright, shiny, and successful – that we’ve forgotten about character.
Character is the strength within us. Character is the backbone of a person – our internal moral compass, our ethics and behaviours. Character is with us when no-one is watching. It’s all those old-fashioned things that no-one seems to talk about much anymore. Honesty, loyalty, decency, work ethic, bravery, humility, compassion.
Life’s struggles and pain help to forge our character. We will never know the strength within us until we have been tested by life’s trials. Strength isn’t something you need when the world is flowing nicely and everything’s going your way.
Today I’m acknowledging you. I’m bearing witness to your struggles. I’m telling you that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes. It’s okay to sit in your vulnerability or pain, and wonder how you’ll get through.
You are an amazing and complex human being. Emotions just are, and the spectrum of emotion is what gives meaning and connection to our world. Live honestly. Live from your heart. Feel your feelings, and know that everything passes. Joy, sadness, they all have their moment or their season.
I’d rather stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the real world, then live in that plastic space of artificial ‘feel good’.
To find a smile for another and the courage to keep going when life’s not flowing easily, when you’re not at your best, that’s what I admire. That’s what I acknowledge in you.
You’re beautiful just as you are. Worthy and real. So have a cry if you need to on those days when you feel sad. Then wipe your eyes, and keep going…