Monday, November 05, 2007

Learning to Live with Disappointment

I think that life is about learning lessons. I believe we are here on the planet to grow and evolve spiritually. Everything that happens in our life gives us the opportunity to develop our consciousness and become more spiritually aware. It's a little like weight lifting. We lift weights to stengthen our physical muscles. Life give us experiences that we can use to strengthen our spiritual muscles in much the same way.

I think one of our main lessons in life is learning to deal with disappointment without "checking out." It is very difficult to experience deep disappointment and still remain engaged with life.

Whether it is rejection in a relationship, the loss of a job, losing a loved one, or a heartbreaking experience like war or oppression, it sometimes seems easier to turn your back on a person or a situation that has hurt you and pretend it no longer exists.

I believe that it is possible to learn to experience deep disappointment and still remain exposed to the object of your disappointment. Many of us have no choice in this matter. It can be quite problematic if we are continually exposed to an unavoidable situation that reminds us of our disappointment if we are unwilling to cope with it in a healthy way. That is where addictions and unhealthy coping mechanisms are born. We find a way to 'check out' anyway, even in the midst of that which disappoints us. Or, we find a way to physically avoid the situation and literally ignore it.

When I first started going to Israel and Palestine and witnessed the immense suffering there, it was very difficult to continue to go back and stay conscious in the midst of that level of pain and despair. It really takes a lot of commitment to processing my emotions, taking good care of myself and being as present as I can. I can't fix or change the situation there, but I can be there. I can be a witness to what is happening. I can be a source of support for my friends there. I can show people that I care about them, even if I can't take away their pain. What it takes is my willingness to be there, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

The tendency is to turn away from pain and disappointment. Avoiding pain and disappointment is a very human reaction, but it causes a lot of problems on the planet. We will go to extreme lengths to avoid discomfort. The trouble is, problems cannot be solved if we ignore or avoid them. Using that approach, or actual lack thereof, they will never be resolved!

Learning to tolerate, process and release our troubling emotions is the key to emotional health. It is the key to transforming our lives and transforming the world. I believe that it is some of the most important work we will ever do, for ourselves and the world.

What... or who do you have a tendency to turn away from? Perhaps today is the day to start leaning in to the experiences that trouble you. Turning and facing something is the way to start to dissolve its power and control over you.

I like this quote by Lee Lozowick:

"Essentially, the result of the most profound and sacred spiritual work is not an exalted state of consciousness, but a state of consciousness in which one is completely responsive to reality. That's what God-realization could be said to be."

Growing ourselves spiritually is what allows us to remain engaged in the world around us, without being destroyed by it. This is how we can make our most complete contribution to life.

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