But if you are seated in the last resort spiritual life raft, what do you do if that journey is just as bumpy as all the rest?
Here you are working hard at improving yourself, doing the best you know and then... you wake up down in the dumps, you yell at your kid, one way or another the halo slips off and with it goes your equilibrium. And your faith.
A client recently sheepishly admitted to me he was going through a very dark time and was wondering how it's possible to know so much, be striving every day to put this knowledge to work, be immersed spiritual teachings and guidance, books, audios, inspirational messages and workshops and still have a bad day. Several actually. Well, OK, a couple of months.
He ended up thinking: if this spiritual stuff is all about living from a persistent and reliable state of wellbeing and contentment, how come I'm doing such a bad job of it?
Who wouldn't draw a similar conclusion? And yet what's happening when we ask 'what's wrong with me?' is not just that we are looking in the wrong place for an answer, we are looking from the wrong place.
Like my client, every one of us who is trying very hard to be better and do better, eventually find themselves in the middle of a down day.
And everything looks bad from there.
In fact it is from the middle of the poo pile that the answer is always going to be the same: get me the heck out of here. That's they only thing you could conclude from the center of your own bad feelings.
So give yourself a break.
If I'm depressed and feeling low, that is when I have the least amount of access to my way out. I am looking at my problem from inside the problem. From the middle of my poor thinking, of course it is going to look like my spiritual understanding is of no use to me. I could conclude all kinds of things about me as a person, a mother, or a friend.
However, when I am looking at any problem from the larger picture of my life, the bigger truth is that it is not that imperative that this moment be different. The moment just is. There is nothing permanent about now.
It is as if I'm measuring the each moment as I go and asking, like a kid from the backseat, "Are we THERE yet?!"
I've already set it up as a 'someday' proposition. I'm measuring my progress to destination based on whether I am problem free, always happy, never disappointed, never angry and so on.
What my client and I reflected on together is that perhaps peace of mind is not so much that we always feel peaceful (as somewhere to get to) but rather that when we are not peaceful it's actually OK. The only thing about it worth seeing really is that it's just not the best place from which to see my problem or my solution clearly.
So we thought it might be true that...
Peacefulness includes 'not peaceful'. Sometimes.
Peacefulness isn't a good measure of how far we are along our way on the journey to bliss. Peacefulness is the measure of the extent to which we understand how human functioning operates in the big picture.
How it really operates is that we all came here already knowing how to love, how to feel joy, and having an intelligence to use in life. Nothing can ever take that away. No bad moment or bad feeling, no matter how bad, can ever change that.
I personally don't feel peaceful and in my well-being in every single moment - and my single biggest spiritual learning so far is: this is fine.
We do a lot of striving in order to feel good 24/7, when in fact feeling good might just include feeling fine about not always feeling good.
Might as well relax, then.
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