I have had a few dark nights of the soul in my life. Some I traversed alone while others I had wonderful friends by my side, surrounding me with love and light. Some I crossed with lovers who kept me warm at night and stood by my side the whole roller coaster ride until the end. One of the most intense dark nights of the soul was in 2007 when the man of my dreams, who I had been with for 6 years, turned out to be cheating on me with my good friend and neighbor who was married with children. After recovering from that profound shock and disillusionment, I moved to a small apartment in an unfavorable part of town where I could hear police sirens at night and had to constantly look over my shoulder wherever I went. During this difficult period, I turned to Shaolin Kung Fu and running for healing. I exercised two hours per day minimum and turned my anger into muscles. After many months of intensive training, my heart grew stronger and my mind and spirit found peace again.
What I realized at 27 years old was that life is a circle, not a straight line. You have moments when everything is going so well and other moments when everything is falling apart. You go from having a lot of money to not having a lot of money. Being in love to being single. Being friends with someone to taking your distance from that same person. Having a big home to having a little apartment. As soon as you understand that life is a circle rather than a straight line, you can begin to appreciate all the bumps and smooth driving life has to offer.
One practice I developed after my separation in 2007 was to say thank you daily for everything in my life. I would sit in my living room, listening to the police sirens outside my apartment, and say thank you for all sorts of things in my life. At first it was hard but it got easier with each passing day. I said thank you for my health, thank you for my affectionate cats keeping me company, thank you for funny movies and spiritual books, thank you for my peaceful work at home. I noticed that the more I said thank you daily, the more gifts popped up out of nowhere.
“You only lose what you cling to” said Buddha and that is very true. Buddhism teaches us that attachment causes suffering. I have meditated on that concept a very long time. What exactly does it mean to be attached to something or someone in life? It means to have expectations that something or someone will give bring you happiness and fill the void inside you. We are attached to a situation because without it, we believe we will lose our meaning and joy.
What became clear to me during my meditations was that in order not to suffer whenever the circle did its thing in my life, all I had to do was stay firmly grounded in my center and not put anything else in the center of my life. I trained myself to be the center of my life and everything else just added to my center. I learned not to depend on anything or anyone for safety, love, happiness, health or wealth. I just planted my roots in the ground and said, “Okay life! Here I am and just add whatever is good and positive around me!”
Comedy versus Tragedy
In my workshops, I always remind people that we have two ways of looking at life. Think of your life like a Shakespearean play. Are you reading a comedy or a tragedy? Since you are the writer of your own life, what reactions will you have to events that happen to you? Will you spend your time crying and complaining or will you laugh and dance? Either way, we all must leave this earth and in those final moments, you shouldn’t cross over with a bag of regrets. I work daily to laugh and dance no matter what life throws at me because most things are out of my control anyway. What is the point in crying over spilt milk, my mother would tell me, when you cannot change what happened?
Circles are Everywhere
When we look at nature, we can clearly see how everything is related to cycles. We have lunar cycles, tide cycles, flower cycles, mating cycles, birthing cycles, and death cycles. Nature creates beautiful things and then these beautiful things fade and get replaced by other beautiful things. Spending time in nature teaches us that life is a circle and we must try to be grateful for every moment and try to be detached to avoid suffering too much. Through the understanding that your life is a circle, you can start enjoying all the surprises that show up at your doorstep!