Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Only Way Out is Through

"Pushing Through"
- flowers and thorns in my desert garden -

The other day as I sat in the local Starbucks, I overheard a conversation going on between two people at the table next to me. A younger woman was literally in tears as she lamented the fact that, in spite of the fact that she had been to see numerous doctors, no one could figure out what was causing the chronic pain she had been experiencing for the past many months. She had gone through a battery of tests and she was on a regimen of various prescribed medications and dietary supplements but nothing seemed to be working. Every day she lived with a sometime-debilitating arthritic pain and she was only 30 years old.

This young woman was sharing her story with someone who appeared to be an older friend, maybe a mentor or a pastor, who gave her what I thought was an excellent piece of advice in response to her problem: “Sometimes you just have to push through it.”

I was immediately reminded of a time in my own life several years ago when I was also going though some chronic problems and a friend of mine gave me a little plaque with a quote from a Robert Frost poem:

The only way out is through.

I used to keep that plaque on my desk and whenever I would find myself in a particularly “rough patch” in my life, I’d look at that desk plaque and remember that sometimes there are no answers - more often than not “life is difficult” and all you can do is  “push through it” until somehow you get to the other side.

We live in a world of quick and easy answers - a world of instant gratification.  We expect that we can take a magic pill and all the pain will go away or we can or press a computer key and find all the answers we are searching for in life; but that is usually not the case. In fact, easy answers and quick solutions rarely happen. Many times the very best we can do is to get up in the morning and “push through it.

I am reminded of something I read a while back in Alex Luckerman’s book, An Undefeated Mind:

An undefeated mind isn’t one that never feels discouraged or despairing.
It’s one that continues on in spite of it.
Possessing an undefeated mind means never forgetting that
defeat comes not from failing but from giving up.

I’m not at all saying that everyone should just accept his or her fate in life, however miserable it may be, nor am I saying that we should never hope for anything more or work to make our lives happier, healthier, or more fulfilled - in fact I am saying the opposite. In my experience I have discovered that, rather than resisting whatever comes our way, when we are really able to embrace life as it comes to us in all its many varied forms, we often find a joy and purpose we never might have imagined.

I also know lots of folks who turn to religion or engage in a spiritual quest as a means of escaping the pain or fleeing from the shadows of their ordinary lives. They expect that their times of meditation or prayer will take them to the heights of spiritual ecstasy; but I’m not at all sure that a spiritual path should ever help us to escape from where we may find ourselves in life. A spiritual path should help us to be present to our lives, present to whatever comes our way.

The more we are able to embrace life as it comes to us, the more we find the fulfillment we all seek.

Buddhist teacher, Susan Murphy, offers this wisdom.

Don’t miss anything.
Everything counts.
 Everyone counts.
Find out what it all means and do what it wants of you.

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