Last night, my wife and I watched the movie Cake with Jennifer Aniston. It’s the moving, disturbing, and ultimately hopeful story of a woman who has been in a terrible car accident which left her childless and in chronic pain. As I have been reflecting on the nature of forgiveness and resilience in preparation for our upcoming talks in February, the story raised a question inside me:
I know first hand that I can bounce back from stress, overwhelm, depression, anxiety, illness, relationship challenges and financial hardship – but what about the big stuff? What about bankruptcy, divorce, fatal illness and suicide? What if it was our child? What if that was my pain?
I sometimes feel a kind of arrogance in talking about resilience as innate – that we can really recover from any circumstance and come back to life “as good as new”. After all, I haven’t necessarily gone through what you’ve gone through and I certainly haven’t felt exactly what you feel.
Yet I’ve seen evidence of the innate health we have at our core repeatedly throughout my life and career as a teacher and coach. While some people never fully recover from loss and others scab over and move forward “sadder but wiser” with a hardened shell, others genuinely thrive. They may still feel sadness, but it’s sweet, not sour; rich as opposed to bitter. Their occasional bursts of anger rise up into a remembrance of power and possibility as opposed to descending down into hatred and despair.
I’ve experienced it in myself on a twenty year journey from suicidal depression to general malaise to high-functioning sadness to actual holy f**king mother of god happiness. I really didn’t think that it was possible to come all the way back to the joy and ease I experienced as a child, and I love, love, love having been proved so completely and utterly wrong.
When people ask me “how” I did it, I’m invariably left with the same answer – there’s nothing to do, but there are a few things to see…
1. Well-being is who you are, not something you can gain or lose
No one was more surprised than me when I came to see that the sense of peace and possibility I was born was still inside me after more than four decades of turbulent living. The phrase “a new lease on life” became meaningful, and a fresh start, in my case without making dramatic changes on the outside, became a reality.
In your quietest moments, can you feel the calm underneath your thinking? Can you touch the peace in the deepest part of your heart before the next repetition of your story of pain and hardship begins?
It’s not that life isn’t hard or bad things don’t happen. It’s that who we are – the mental health and well-being at our core – is eternal, immortal, universal, and infinite.
2. Thought is a transient energy, ever present but continually changing forms
The fundamental understanding at the core of The Inside-Out Revolution is this:
We live in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of our circumstances.
What gets in the way of our experiencing our innate peace of mind is the ever changing experience of our moment by moment thinking. These aren’t just the thoughts we hear in our head as internal dialogue – it’s the fabric of the seemingly real “reality” we live inside of and do our best to navigate our way through.
But nothing made of thought is real, in the sense that thought is a transient energy, ever present but continually changing forms. When we begin to catch glimpses of the thought-created nature of our reality (like “glitches in the matrix”), we open back up to the space of well-being underneath.
3. There is no “big stuff”
I’ve told the story elsewhere in my writing of the comedian who wanted to hire me to help him prepare for a “really big gig”. The sum total of my coaching was to point him towards the fact that he was making up the distinction “really big”, and in buying into it was creating a whole set of additional challenges that it seemed like he needed outside assistance to overcome.
While there are certainly some things in my life that seem like they would be harder to bounce back from than other things, I have seen time and time again that the size of a challenge is in the thoughts of the beholder. Where we draw the line between easy to handle and hard to bear is surprisingly arbitrary, and can even change moment to moment and day to day. One person’s daily life is another person’s impossible dream; one person’s biggest challenge is another person’s daily routine.
That’s not to say that if you’re suffering or in pain right now, you should just get over it. Nothing is less helpful or more annoying than someone pointing out that “it’s just your thinking” when we’re in the middle of it. But you can take comfort in the fact that this too will pass – not because it’s nice to believe that, but because the very nature of thought is temporary and the very nature of peace is permanent, pervasive, and present.
|With all my love,