"This world we live in is but thickened light."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Transcendentalist
We have rounded the corner into the final months of 2021 and are headed toward the start of 2022. What a wonderful opportunity to take stock of our lives! What would you like to wrap up this year? What do you aspire to create next year?
As we traverse this world of change, it can be useful to remember the areas in which we have agency. While we do not control everything that affects us, we can control some things that conspire either to propel our lives forward or to make things more difficult. There is a bumper sticker slogan that sums up my recommendation here: “Choose love.”
At some point, we must surrender to the mystery of spiritual growth as we accept our experiences and ourselves. A spiritual practice can help us to be more grounded and centered as we interact with others and address life’s demands. Additionally, it can enhance the clarity and understanding that we bring to the challenges we face. Furthermore, it can offer us the courage, strength, and faith we need to be vibrantly alive as we live our dreams. A spiritual practice can be a powerful force for good in our endeavors and development! It can be so powerful that we might begin to think that our foundations are unshakeable. And, that is a nice thought… but it is not true.
As long as we are human beings traversing a life on this planet with hopes, dreams, and loves, we are vulnerable. Having the humility to embrace and nurture our vulnerabilities, while continuing to engage with our heart’s desires can be tricky. We may set forth pursuing our highest aspirations without acknowledging our vulnerability. Or, we may be so aware of the fragile, tender aspects of ourselves and our lives, that we shy away from going after the daunting dreams that we hold dear. Embracing spirit increases our awareness—of both our truest desires and our most sensitive vulnerabilities. How do we move forward both gently and boldly?
Well… Allow me to reiterate: at some point, we must surrender to the mystery of spiritual growth and simply accept our experiences and ourselves. With as much as we know, as clear as are our intentions, and as strong as is our faith, life will not always make sense. We will have to integrate experiences that do not sit well with us. The inner journey of making peace and deepening acceptance is part of spiritual growth. It contributes to being grounded and centered, building courage, having faith, and clarifying dreams. But it can be unsettling, disturbing, and disruptive. The path to acceptance is paved with experiences that we would not otherwise choose to accept. So, one aspect of acceptance is letting go of the need for our lives to make sense or to meet our standards of approval, and, instead, staring directly into the mystery. To the extent possible, it is worth marveling at the unknown and unknowable.
Embracing the mystery of life and spirituality is not resignation. Neither is it avoidance. We still must venture forth in the best way we know, fully vulnerable, with our dreams intact and in hand. At the same time, we must recognize that life is full of unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns, each of which lands us in a new terrain. As we step into the newness of experiences that we never anticipated, we must befriend these foreign aspects of our lives—even when they seem to be more foe than friend. By allowing the mysterious, and, perhaps, unwelcome, experiences to inform the fullness of our surrender, we allow ourselves to walk through the doors that have opened, rather than to bemoan the doors that have closed behind us and the doors that were never to be.
Being present with what is and releasing the need to know what will be—while breathing deeply and moving forward—is a practice. Please join me in the practice of remaining engaged even when the answers we crave are nowhere to be found. In other words, join me in opening to the unfolding mystery of living.
Heidi Szycher, PhD
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