“It’s easy to be spiritual when things are going your way.” –Byron Katie
Perhaps you…blog about how life/spirit/The Uni-verse wants you to thrive. You tell friends this when they’re down. You read books that affirm that this is true. Perhaps you’re even a coach or yoga teacher who tells others to remember this when they’re having a tough time.
So I ask this question–gently, yet honestly–If you are willing to trust that life wants you to thrive, are you yourself choosing to live as though that’s true?
When I’m reading Eckhart Tolle, or a coaching client is seeing the truth in the illusion, or something I’ve worked hard for is coming to fruition, then it’s abundantly clear that life–or The Uni-verse, God, Spirit, what have you–wants us to thrive.
But what do we do during the tough times? How do we backtrack on the very belief systems we claim to live by, when things are confusing, challenging or just outright sucking us dry?
It’s when we most need to “live as if” that we often decide that it’s time to backtrack on an idea, give up, or that whatever steps forward we’ve managed weren’t “enough” or weren’t “really working.”
I’m asking you to reconsider that.
The Big Picture
First things first–there’s the big picture to consider. Here’s a story:
Many years ago, I was dating the most charming man. He was a good person, funny and smart–and we had a lot of laughs together.
There was just one, tiny-big issue: Every few weeks or days, usually right around the time when things between us were going particularly well, he’d suddenly need… “space.”
I’d try to work with what he needed, confused because he always seemed to distance himself right after he got vulnerable and we were closer, but–well, okay. You work with what you’ve got.
Fast-track to the end: the relationship did not last. I was pretty devastated by this, at the time.
But years later, I met a different man, who would later become my husband.
The man who would later become my Mr. Husband, it would turn out, would not suddenly need “space” like this other guy did.
Yes, Mr. Husband would have his own particular peccadilloes, just as I would have my ways of triggering him, but the difference here was that we were both on the same page when it came to how we would work through them.
All those times that I questioned whether or not life was going the way it was “supposed to” in my post-breakup grief with that other guy made a lot more sense.
I needed to get away from that guy…so that I could end up with Mr. Husband.
So let’s consider the big picture:
— the devastating breakup.
— the lost job.
— the illness.
— yes, even death.
When the going gets tough, we really have to remember that we don’t know where the going is…going.
I don’t say this lightly, nor do I say it from the perspective of someone who has never suffered loss (believe me, this breakup example is a drop in the hat).
I say it as someone who sees the truth: that we suffer more when we turn away from believing that life fundamentally wants us to thrive.
The Big Sign
So how do you keep in mind this idea–that life fundamentally wants you to thrive–when you’re truly in the thick of it? When you don’t know where to start?
Honestly, I think it starts with a sign.
We’re talking–signs of the paper variety, with black magic marker.
When you’re really down and out, and it’s too easy to get lost in the wash of hard emotions to keep any real perspective, any simple piece of paper will do:
“Life wants me to thrive. Am I choosing to live as if I believe that this is true?”
Now–this piece of paper idea isn’t as sexy or seductive as someone’s new 1-2-3 step plan, or hiring an expensive guru, or many of the other available options, but it’s astonishingly effective, and I’m more interested in “effective” than I am in “looks cool.”
Make the sign, place it somewhere visible, and then the next time the grief or the anger comes up, you go sit in front of the sign and cry it out right there. Feel all the feelings, because there’s nothing wrong with them, but at the same time–sit right next to that sign that’s your little 8.5 x 11” life raft on a day when you’re really down and out.
If life wants you to thrive, and you’re choosing to live as though that’s true, then surely it wants you to thrive at feeling and processing the very real emotions of your experience, while also providing a first, simple step towards the perspective that time and healing will bring.
Get Some Groupies
Life doesn’t want you, alone, to thrive–life wants all of us to thrive.
Remember that guy I dated? Who knows–it’s entirely possible that he now tells the story of that crazy “clingy” chick he needed to get some “space” from. Moving away from me was his form of thriving, what was best for him.
So start doing two things:
One: Start seeing that what’s happening might be for the greater collective good (it’s not all about us, after all!)
Two: Start assembling some groupies.
Find, or arrange to spend more time with, “your people,” the people who “get” what you’re going through and who are committed to changing it.
I’ve noticed that it’s a particularly pernicious habit among women to use difficult situations as a form of bonding, through incessant analysis and dissection of a problem–and this does meet needs on some level. After all, it feels good to use that biological/socially conditioned tendency towards nurturing and being nurtured.
Just tread with caution, because you might wake up like I did one day, and realize that the primary way you connect with people is over…drama. Problems. Complaining.
In essence? If you’ve just been laid off, hang out with the other people who have been laid off who are really doing their best to see opportunities at the same time as they’re honest on the days when they’re really angry that they were laid off.
Then start converting the rest of them.
Yes–that’s right–don’t ditch the people who aren’t choosing to live the way you are. Just start converting by example.
When they start complaining, acknowledge them–and counter with a positive example. (People who complain are in pain, after all. They want to be heard).
When people start getting angry and self-righteous, and you feel that seductive pull to join them in condemning something–which would not be practicing the belief that life wants you to thrive–you don’t need all the answers. You just need this one astonishing question: “I wonder what a good solution would be?” (People who are self-righteous and angry are in pain, after all. They feel powerless around a perceived injustice.)
See how this goes? You proactively choose to hang with the peeps who are already where you’re hoping to be, thriving. Then you courageously practice this thriving business when you’re in the company of others who aren’t (yet) there.
I couldn’t possible tell anyone reading this how their story would play out. I wouldn’t condescend to pat anyone on the head at the end of this piece and say, “Don’t worry, it will all be okay.”
You, and your one precious life, are a really beautiful, complex matrix. Starting with a simple tool to use when you’re really in the thick of it, and then creating a support system around you, are just two steps in a positive direction.
If you’re choosing to live from the belief that life wants you to thrive, would it be worth it to you to start there?
I don’t know what “okay” looks like for every person, but I do know that when we choose to live from a place of believing that our life’s experiences are preparing us and others to thrive, we get to “okay” a lot faster.
Thank you for choosing to thrive.