Most of us want something for nothing. We want to be fit and healthy without exercising, successful without taking a risk, and loved without losing anything. This “all blessings, no burdens” idea of how life should be is very American, since America is the only culture in the world that seems to expect life to be comfortable and relatively pain free.
However, in most spiritual traditions, we find countless examples of the inevitable relationship between joy and despair, fullness and emptiness, life and death. Philosopher, Alan Watts said,“Good without evil is like up without down, and . . . to make an ideal of pursuing the good is like trying to get rid of the left by turning constantly to the right”
We are so captivated by our collective myth of the happy ending, that we rarely acknowledge that in order to gain anything we need to sometimes lose something else.
We simply never move forward in life without losing something. No wonder most of us are in resistance to change, even when those changes promise to be positive. Surrendering to change means letting go of being in control. Yet, as much as we want our lives to be different, the truth is, we don’t like it much when our illusion of being in control is challenged. The feeling that we are in charge of our lives gives us leverage in our attempts to avoid the experience of loss. Yet, these efforts to circumvent loss are the very foundation of our excessive anxiety and worry. Many of us are suffering severe levels of angst in an attempt to avoid the natural order of life, which always includes periods of endings and passing away.
One of the most important skills we can acquire in life is the ability to respond well to loss and disappointment. The first step in doing so is to give up the assumption that, when we suffer a loss, that something is “wrong”. Nothing is wrong. Loss is a part of life.
Sometimes there is a sadness, a silence, a despair or a loneliness that just needs to be listened to.
Our lives are always in motion. As such, we will continually be asked to give up the life we have for the life that we are creating. For those of us who’ve suffered traumatic losses, particularly ones that occurred in early childhood, the feelings that we associate with loss, such as sorrow, fear and frustration, can be unsettling and frightening.
However, it’s important to learn how to feel these feelings without needing to numb out or act in ways that are hurtful and destructive.
When you decide to improve your life, the first thing you will experience is loss. It happens all the time. You think that, because you’ve taken positive action,things should start to look up. Instead, very often, something strange happens. Things actually begin to get worse.
That is because you have made a decision to grow yourself into a wiser, more-loving version of yourself. And that means that the “old” you has to die so that the “new” you can be born. The first act of creation is always destruction.
In order to live rich and meaningful lives, we must learn to undergo the necessary losses of life without having to distract ourselves with drama, or be rescued from the unknown.
We must learn to move forward even when we are afraid, embracing the very losses that we have been trying to avoid. For that is how we will transform our disappointments, our defeats and our sad tales into something valuable — a deepening of the soul, a growing in compassion, a leveling of false pride. These are the experiences that have the capacity to help us expand our ability to give and receive love.