I want to learn how to fly. I want to live this life to its fullest capacity. I want to love well. I know all of this takes self-awareness but, how many of us are really willing to go through what it takes to get that awareness? It seems in my life the only way I’ve ever been able to learn anything is the hard way.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”
– Kahlil Gibran
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It rings so true… but there’s a problem. When that shell is breaking we usually have no idea what we’re supposed to be learning. If we already knew, we wouldn’t need to learn, and we wouldn’t need the pain in the first place. We just have to go through it and trust the universe that the lesson is coming. Ay, there’s the rub. As seekers on the path we want that understanding but paying the price of breaking open isn’t so appealing. Especially when we can’t know what we’re buying with our discomfort.
For me, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: “Dear Universe, I know I’m supposed to be learning something from all of this, but I don’t yet understand what the lesson is. I’m losing strength. If you would only tell me what I’m supposed to be learning, then I know I would be able to make it through. You know me, Universe. If I have a goal in front of me, I can do almost anything.”
Universe: “Silly Justin, that’s not the way it works. Here, let me show you…”
So then we are left with a choice. We can trust the universe, take our medicine, and learn our lesson. Or, we can run away. I wish I could tell you I’ve always taken the stronger, nobler path. I haven’t. Many times I’ve run away. Many times I’ve hid from the pain in diversions, distractions, or possibly my favorite… other people. But after a while the distractions stop working, I begrudgingly take my lumps and end up a little wiser on the other side.
And in that wisdom, I find joy. The lessons I’ve learned have helped me to live a much fuller life. I am more able now to experience love, connection, and God (all the same thing, btw) than I have ever been. At moments, I even feel like I can fly. But damn if those crash landings… crash courses in wisdom… don’t leave a few bruises.
If you find yourself breaking the shell that encloses your understanding, or as a teacher of mine says, “in it,” I humbly offer some of what I’ve learned the hard way:
Minimize the running away. Chances are, if the universe wants to tell you something bad enough, it knows where to find you. You can run, but you can’t hide. Taking some quality time alone to process, meditate, and/or go on retreat will cut down on the time it takes to learn the lesson. Running only prolongs the inevitable. If you run far enough, you have to start the lesson over from the beginning. Raise your hand if it’s ever taken the universe a dozen times with the same lesson to get through to you.
Reach out to your support system. This is a tough one for lots of people, myself included. For some of us, when we’re “in it,” our instinct is to isolate. However, our friends and family (blood or otherwise) give us the boost we sometimes have trouble giving ourselves. Let them help. You will feel better and they will receive the gift that comes from helping a loved one.
Stay on your spiritual path and keep walking it. It’s tempting when we take a couple of lumps to sit down on the side of the road and take a nap… or turn around altogether. Whatever your spiritual home is; yoga, meditation, church, tribal dancing, etc., keep going. Go more. It will help to remind you why you’re doing it all in the first place.
In the end, it’s always worth it. The harder the lumps, the bigger the lesson. The bigger the lesson, the higher we learn to fly. Hopefully, I’ll see you up there.
To read more of Justin’s work, click here.