It's Okay to Not Be Okay
One of the biggest problems I've seen in the personal and spiritual development communities is a desire to bypass how we're actually feeling or the state that we're in. We want to go directly to this idea of being able to respond to life as if we were completely self-actualized or awakened. For many, this might look like being happy all the time or that problems don't exist. That we should never get angry or sad or have to suffer.
But what many people can't acknowledge is that this ideal doesn't exist in the human experience. Being mindful, living in alignment with purpose, having self-awareness and understanding our true nature - doesn't mean we get to stop living life itself. It doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs anymore or that we will no longer face trials and tribulations in life.
And so, a lot of people just seem to not want to experience the ups and downs of life anymore. So they come up with this idea, this concept, that the result of all the self-development work that they're doing is supposed to be so that they're able to reach this constant state of bliss or inner peace.
But in reality, through self-development work, it's our thoughts and perspectives that change. So that the MEANING of our experiences change. We no longer experience the ups and downs in the same way that we used to. And therefore we learn to deal with them better and become more resilient.
Sometimes, I like to use the metaphor of a fishing bobber. The bobber sits on top of the water and rides the waves of the water - whether it's going up or down. It doesn't matter how big the waves are or if it temporarily gets pushed below the surface of the water, it always comes back up and stays floating.
And that's like life. We will always experience obstacles and challenges. The ups and downs of life. The waves will never stop coming. But by developing a relationship with them, we can learn to become more resilient. We can learn that we don't have to suffer. We recognize that it is the waves of adversity that actually makes us stronger. They are responsible for allowing us to deepen our own self-awareness. And because of this, we can actually learn to embrace and appreciate them.
I believe how we experience life, our reality, is determined by our capacity to direct our thoughts and what we're paying attention to. And since our emotions and thoughts typically go hand in hand, it's not surprising that we may want to avoid focusing on emotions that feel negative, heavy or painful. We feel like if we focus on them, it'll actually make them get worse.
But the truth is when we're trying to avoid something, we're actually simultaneously focused on it. There's an attachment to it that creates a resistance to flow. And so by trying to deny or push away negative thoughts or emotions, and not own how we're actually doing in the moment, we hold ourselves stuck and ultimately end up making those negative thoughts or emotions stronger and embed them even more deeply.
And so we must learn to face the emotions that we're actually feeling but trying to avoid. They exist for a reason. And that is they serve as opportunities for growth and expansion. And we must recognize that by avoiding them, we are actually missing the lessons they are here to teach us.
And so it's crucial to not ignore how we're actually feeling and focus on how we THINK we should feel. Or where we think we should be on our self-development path. Positivity alone is not enough. At least not for the long game.
We don't want to paint ourselves into a corner believing that it is only acceptable to feel happy. That if you're not happy or at peace - you've failed life in some way. Because as long as you're alive, you're going to meet difficulty and challenges. And if you have this internal rule that you have to be happy all the time in order to be successful, then there will never be any room for deeper self-acceptance or self-love. Positivity becomes just donning another mask.
And so to me, life is really about self-discovery. Even with greater self-awareness. Greater resiliency. Greater integrity with our purpose. It is still a journey. A process. A practice. We must authentically relate to the natural ebbs and flows of life so that we can truly embody and integrate the wisdom it teaches us.
And so it's okay to feel the full range of emotions. It's okay to be in pain. It's okay to feel like life isn't going the way you want right now. But it's actually in this acknowledgment of our personal truth that allows us to move forward and get to a better feeling space.
It's by knowing where we truly are right now that we can get clarity about the direction we need to go. Because just knowing where we want to be is like a dot on a piece of paper. We must also know where we are in this moment - so that we can connect the dots to make a line. To reveal a path. Otherwise we have no way to move towards alignment - or maintain alignment.
And so, by owning where we truly are rather than where we THINK we should be. By honoring our TRUE thoughts and feelings in any given moment, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to CHOOSE in that moment to come into alignment. It is in this choice, from moment to moment, that allows us to get unstuck and actually flow in the direction of where we would like to be.
A Buddhist parable I've come across illustrates the topic of this blog post perfectly:
There was once a farmer in India who had many problems. One day he went to visit the Buddha, who he heard was helping many people. Once he arrived, he began listing off his problems. But with each one, the Buddha responded, "I can't help you with that."
The farmer finally got very angry, saying, "I've traveled far to come see you, and you really can't help me with any of my problems?" And the Buddha replied, "Every person has 83 problems. But you, you have an 84th problem."
The farmer asked, "What's my 84th problem?" To which the Buddha responded, "Your problem is you don't want to have any problems."