With big things as well as small, when something runs its course, there is a moment of stillness and pause before we figure what comes next. After the trees shed leaves in the fall, winter brings a pause before a new cycle which comes in the spring. A perfect and needed moment of stillness, like a moment between breaths, words, thoughts. So is in life. When we come to an end of a road and find ourselves at a crossroads, there is a moment of stillness too. We look back and see what this road has taught us, we pause and reflect and take a moment to decide in which direction we shall take that next step. But, sometimes this isn't an easy decision to make. So we stand there, and stand there... Just as the moment in between breaths this is too a normal pause, but if we hold teh breath for too long we feel like suffocating. Waiting too long on that crossroads can make us feel like we're suffocating. We get stuck and hold on to the end for more reasons, one being fear. New brings change and change brings uncertainty.
Not long ago I too felt a bit stuck and I knew that, I need to forward. I needed to make a decision on which road to take and with which intentions, but I got stuck at figuring out where forward is. In these moments, when I need more clarity, I often turn to the wisdom of people I am blessed to have in my life; my friends, family or teachers.
About this particular issue I sought guidance from one of my teachers, a wise man with a deep understanding of human mind and a gentleness which I guess comes with age and much life experience. Ones I shared my thoughts and doubts, this is what he said: “You are about to climb a mountain to reach a peak. The peak is your goal, a place where life is much easier, more peaceful and abundant. There are two ways to reach this peak, two ways up the mountain. The one you are on now, a more familiar, quicker but steeper and on a less sunny side of the mountain. The other side is a bit out of hand, it will take planning as it is not familiar and longer to reach the top, but it’s easier to climb, it has more sunshine and nicer views you can stop to enjoy. Which way do you see yourself taking? Will you stick to the familiar or embrace the change?”
It sounded like an easy choice, so why am I just standing still? Why do I feel like I can't move? I love roads less travelled and the fresh smell of new beginnings. I never thought I feared change, I flourish in change, but something about this and about now had made me doubtful and fearful. Many times in life when faced with a choice, my adventurous, bonvivant side would always take an adventurous, scenic route. So what is so different now? Is this what they call older and wiser? And if so, I don't like it one bit. I had to do some soul searching to find out why I felt so stuck.
In my quest for understanding I realised there is an inherited pattern I am still holding on to, regardless of all I’ve learned and experienced, regardless of how much I’ve already changed and what my life so far looks from the outside. My inherited belief is that change is not to be embraced, especially if your life is normal according to socially accepted standards. And while change a constant part of life and teaches us to embrace the unknown, I was taught to fear the unknown and stay ‘safe’ on the road more familiar. Hold to the familiar, abide by rules. Rules somebody else had made. I was also taught that everything worth having has to be earned the hard way. It has to involve a bit of a struggle, rolling up the sleeves and doing the work. And while, in order to reach a goal, sometimes there is work to be done, hard decisions to be made, things to be let go off and it may not be all butterflies and flowers, I know it doesn’t have to be hard either. When you are in the flow of life, there isn’t much struggle. Struggle comes from swimming against the tide, not with it.
Looking back I now see that decisions to turn my life upside down as many times as I did in my life never came easy. Quite the opposite; I would always struggle and change would often happen out of wrong intentions - out of spite, to show my will and strength, or to prove something. It had to be hard, otherwise it had no value, or I was not worthy of it. It was a fight, or sometimes even a game, not so much ‘’following my heart’’ as I liked to believe. This isn't a bad or a good thing, it is what it is. I used the tools I had to move and to change, to live by my own rules. But what happens when you no longer want to use the same tools? Having spent many years letting go of the fight, I now feel as if I have lost the ability to hold the sword I used to cut through life’s fears and challenges. I feel as though now, instead of a sword, I am holding a flower in my hand, trying to make do with it.
I know that my sword has helped me cut the chains of my past and break free, but that was just a physical escape. When we are truly free, it is an inner state and not the outer, and no prison cells can take that away. Breaking free of the past, of the inherited beliefs, traditions we don't resonate with, of norms and rules and regulations, the dos and don'ts and the boogie man fears IS the true freedom. From that point of view I wonder if it's even possible to be do truly free or do we stay forever bound, one way or the other, to all these energies, to the inherited belief systems, to collective karma. I know I have surprised myself with this realisation that the road ahead is still very long. In fact, regardless of everything, I may still be at the beginning.
Letting go of inherited belief systems, changing, and finding your own way takes waking up, questioning and evaluating just about everything you have ever been told is ‘normal’, socially accepted, or good for you. Everything you have been told by family, society, school, teachers of any kind. Questioning without judgment. It takes fearlessly digging deep and stripping down until you are left naked to face of the world, standing there as long as you need to until you realize there is nothing to be ashamed of, we are all naked underneath it all. It takes getting lost because all of the sudden the map you were given no longer serves the path you’re on, so now you have to find your own path. It sometimes takes walking alone as you watch everyone else going in the different direction. It takes taking responsibility of every little choice you make in every day life. No manuals, no scripts, no shortcuts. Wow. No wonder we are still here, closing our eyes to suffering, finding excuses in 'norms' and rules of someone else, following blindly regardless of the potential of the human heart and mind.
“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” It isn’t easy, but it is necessary for all of us to embrace our own truth and find our own way using our hearts and not our minds, holding a flower and not a sword.
Photo credit: Bojan Haron Markicevic