Embracing Both the Easy and the Difficult

life cyclesMary O’Malley – When I stopped by our local co-op, the place was packed with long lines at the checkout stations. By the time I finished shopping the lines had all disappeared. I joked with the clerk that it looks like we come to the checkout counter in waves and with a laugh she said yes.

As I contemplated this, I realized that this happens in all aspects of life. Life is like the ocean. Tides come in and then the tides go out. Day contracts into night and then opens into day again. Summer contracts into fall and then winter and finally opens into spring again. Even your heart valves open and close. You would die if they didn’t.

It also happens in your inner life. They are clear days and then the fog rolls in again. You make contact with a sense of peace and joy and then you drift back into the world of struggle. We so fight this. We want the peaceful times and intensely resist the difficult. But in this last year and a half of intense pain with two surgeries that were supposed to relieve the pain but only made it worse, I have come to deeply appreciate the ebb and flow. So much clarity and even joy has come from this time, but I have access to that because I have learned over and over again to not fight the ebb and not hold on to the flow.

One the hallmarks of this time has been disturbed sleep and at the beginning I really resisted this. When the pain would wake me up, my mind would usually be frustrated and resistant. But more and more quickly I became fascinated. I would ask life, ‘What are you showing me here?’ Or, ‘What am I ready to see?’ And as my resistant mind discovered, over and over again, not to be a victim to being awakened again, I learned to stay open to whatever was here, and magic began to happen.

My times of resistance became shorter and shorter as I was able to be curious about what the mind was afraid of experiencing. One of the most important things I deepened during this time was to soften when my mind was resisting, my body was tight, and my breath was shallow. When I would allow long slow out breaths, softening into my experience, often what I arose was joy. When I’m caught in my resistant mind, I am a victim and my mind wants it all to go away. When I soften, doorways open and I make contact with the only moment that matters now.

But there were times when my mind couldn’t let go for it was just mad and scared and resistant. Then I would place my hand over my heart and remember a wonderful quote from Stephen Levine, “When the heart at last acknowledges how much pain there is in the mind, it turns like a mother toward a frightened child.”

Even as I write these words my heart swells in love for how much my mind believes it must resist the ebb and hold onto the flow, how much it is afraid of the unpleasant parts of life.  And yet, it is my experience that the unpleasant always carries great treasures if we but turn and listen.

The more you come back to life, the more you see that it will always open and close. It will always be easy and then difficult, joyous and sorrowful. And peace, the deep peace that is our true nature, doesn’t come from the absence of challenging times. It comes from the ability to be with what is. Especially the difficult!

Most of the time I don’t like this challenging time. I don’t have to. But I deeply trust it and the more I soften and open, the more I see beyond our mind’s addiction to struggle into the pure delight of showing up for life exactly as it is, both the easy and the difficult!

SF Source Mary O’Malley May 2020

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