I realize that everyone has a story to tell. It’s just a matter of how, when and where you tell it. And I believe that it must be told. It’s in the sharing that we receive at least as much as we give. Our life stories, whether they are mundane or extraordinary, are testaments to each of us developing as human “Beings.” I heard someone once summarize our life process as, “we begin as victims, then become warriors, and end up as gardeners,” or writers, as the case may be. Although this is a somewhat simplistic and negative synopsis of the life process, it’s not too bad in capturing the flavor of various life chapters and how we mellow with age. Thank God for that.
In the meantime, our human journey is a process. We can’t expect to arrive as ‘enlightened quintessential examples of human potential fulfilled’ overnight. After all, it took years to unlearn our perfect clarity as babies. It’s good to know that our potential is always a pregnant possibility, depending on how this potential is nurtured. However, the norm seems to be quite a lengthy process of unlearning our clarity, learning misleading stuff and unlearning these illusions before finally reawakening to some kind of lasting truth. The Buddhists’ axiom (or first of four “Noble Truths”) is that, “life is suffering.” What confounds us is the pervasiveness of suffering. What is the purpose of pain? Pain seems to be a central dynamic to personal growth.
In the animal kingdom, the eagle lines its thorny nest with down, thereby providing a safe, comfortable environment for its young. Yet as the fledgling grows to maturity, its body weight makes it increasingly uncomfortable to stay in its sheltered enclave. Eventually it must spread its wings and fly into the unknown or be pierced by the thorns. For human Beings, the dynamics are similar. We are inspired to change through pain. This is not to minimize other sources of inspiration, including beauty. However, there’s nothing like pain to spurn us on to change our circumstances. Our desire nature is the will from within that gives us the momentum and the direction for action. It is ourselves in context with the world that provides us with the pain to keep moving, growing or be pierced by the thorns of stagnant complacency or fatalistic drudgery in its many forms. That’s the process. That’s life.
Yet within this formula of painful living lies our birthright to be perfectly happy. As I mentioned, we are born with clarity and joy, pure and simple. As our awareness of ourselves within the context of the world expands, the influences of an ever more political and complex web of relationships intrudes on our innocence. Our struggle, to return to that clarity and joy, takes us the rest of our lives to achieve. If we are lucky and consciously pursuing it with diligence, what we seek will be granted to us. That is a guarantee. I suppose human beings are wired to not appreciate that which comes too easily. Perhaps that is why this process can be so difficult. Our potential, this fundamental state of bliss, lies latent within us until that moment when we are able to shift into that state of grace. It is all in the mind and heart, right there within our grasp at all times. Our destiny is to embrace this wholeness. Just as the eagle is destined for flight, so too are we bound for divine, profound peace on earth.
At this point, I will say that my path in life has been perhaps more challenging than most. Blessed with a keen mind and a penchant for adventure, I have seen and done things that my mother still does not know about. I have lived through a couple of bouts of blindness, let go of the dying spirit of my unborn child and watched a man die of a drug overdose. My life has spanned extreme challenges from an embittered ex-husband, bankruptcy and the soul-peeling gauntlet of prolonged and unrelenting poverty. Isolation, depression and the demoralizing legacy of receiving social assistance have all contributed to the depth of who I am today.
On the lighter side, I was lucky to give birth to a healthy child. I reeled with love at first sight, overcame the demon of depression, was blessed with loved ones who survived the test of time and discovered the unconditional love of my pets. The battles for both my university degree and my Registered Professional Counselor certification were hard-won victories. At one point, I even won the city championship in the 100 yard dash. Most importantly I found my way to the fountain of well being that is my daily meditation practice.
It seems that my life continues to be anything but dull. My birthday in November launched a new battery of challenges and victories that pushed me to the brink of sanity. Yet this latest cluster of pain had a new cleansing quality to it. It felt like many seeds that had been sown were coming to fruition at long last. For better or worse, the outcome in every case was clarity; beautiful, soul-freeing clarity. I told a friend the other day that I am not as sweet as I used to be; yet I am more real. I no longer have a strangle hold on an ideal that was not the real me. I think I even love myself more. Going forward, I am grateful for my past. Right now, I accept myself as I am. That means peace.
Helena is a Counsellor, Special Needs Worker, Facilitator and Writer.