Works in Progress
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
“Where there is great love there are always miracles.”
Spiritual and self-help books make everything sound so easy. In five simple steps or seven easy lessons, you can discover joy, bliss, and happiness. It’s like a Disney movie where the prince finally arrives and the couple lives happily ever after . . . no disagreements, no financial struggles, no fears, no hurts, and no anger.
Spiritual leaders also make it look easy. We don’t read about the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, or Mother Theresa feeling crabby, overworked, hormonal, exhausted, stressed, out-of-sorts, and disappointed; we don’t hear about fights with a spouse, a teenage son or daughter with addictions, or a parent with Alzheimer’s. Which is not to say these individuals did not endure extreme hardships—they did! It just doesn’t appear that way when listening to them after their years of hard work. In fact, some of the best teachers experienced severe personal suffering—such as the pain of exile or the ravages of war and poverty—and now have something constructive to offer. When Thich Nhat Hanh talks about peace, he understands, firsthand, the sacrifice and loss of life when people (and their countries) do not practice kindness.
I’ve heard it said that most people don’t wake up one morning and say, “My life is wonderful and perfect; I think I’ll begin a spiritual journey.” Usually, it’s just the opposite. Life has gotten painful enough that the need to do something different is stronger than the urge to stick with what is familiar. And people who have never faced such challenges are not necessarily better off—to themselves, the planet, or anyone else. Ignorance may be bliss, but it can wreak havoc if someone has not learned any important life lessons. It’s like the queen declaring, “Let them eat cake,” because she has never gone hungry.
So, here’s what I want to say: Sometimes on a spiritual journey, similar to a marriage or during parenthood, hard work is required. We mess up. We make mistakes. We keep learning. We keep growing. We do the best we can, today. We are works in progress.
Be gentle with yourself. It takes enormous inner strength to look honestly at fears, ego, pride, jealousy, anger, and hatred. It’s much easier to blame someone else than look deep within—that’s scary! People would rather fight wars than do the difficult work of examining their fears and learning the skills to live peacefully. It takes tremendous courage to extend love in the face of deep hurt. And it takes a strong spiritual commitment to choose prayer or meditation or breathing—over lashing out at someone. Even once we’ve learned significant life lessons, new challenges arise . . . and we have to learn again, on a deeper level, how to love ourselves, how to forgive, and how to love each other.
But here’s the good news: if we help each other, we never have to go it alone! In time, we start to reap the benefits from our efforts. The gains may never be visible to anyone else, but you will know how far you’ve come and how fortunate you are, today, to be right where you are.
In joy & gratitude,