If in last week’s note I was walking on sunshine, today I felt more like I was sludging through the mud, or to be exact, through very cold, wet snow and slippery ice, upon which I literally fell directly on my *@#$)(*.
As I sludged and slid, I was reminded of two of my favorite scenes from the movie “500 Days of Summer.” In the first, Tom has just fallen in love with Summer, and after he first spends the night with her we see him skipping down the street bathed in a golden glow. Everyone is smiling at him, the birds are singing, people are breaking out into a coordinated musical acts- the world is a beautiful place.
Flash to the same scene, several months later, but this time it’s the day after Tom and Summer have broken up. The streets are grey. The music is gloomy. Everyone is frowning, bumping into him. The world is dismal.
I always thought that this scene sequence was brilliant, because what’s different here, of course, is Tom.
Wait a minute, it’s not the WORLD’s fault??? No fair! Wouldn’t that make it easier, so we can just wake up another day in another situation and everything will be fine? But indeed, if I look back at my two days, many of the circumstances were largely the same. Pack dawdling children into 18 layers of snowpants, snowboots, snowjackets, hats, mittens, neckguards. Rush first child to school while carrying very heavy second puffball. Return home and try to stuff second child into carseat that barely buckles because of all the layers. You get the idea. One day this all feels manageable, easy, even joyful. And another it is the most frustrating experience of your life. As put beautifully by Anais Nin, ”We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
So if it’s all about me, what to do on those grey days?
First reflection: Realize that it’s perfectly okay to not always be sunny! It’s important to honor our natural cycles – our darkness as well as our light, and to know that we need both in full depth in order to be whole human beings. Kahlil Gibran writes, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else could it be?
Second, instead of pushing the grey away, remember that it’s an invitation to deeper knowing and Truth. So keep this in mind next time you feel the urge to mask the grey by visiting the tanning booth for some simulated sun (or starbucks for an oat fudge bar, as my favorite soulshaper likes to say ;-)), or the mall, or the tv, or other comforting fall-backs. What if instead we took this as an opportunity to ask what might be obscuring the sun from reaching you brightly today? One technique for doing this is take a few minutes to breathe deep and go within, and use your own inner trust, knowing and curiosity to ask, “What is beneath the grey that is wanting to come up to the surface?” In my experience, I have found it amazing how I can try and try to push a feeling or mood away with no result, but when I tune in and really feel into what is at the root it instantly lifts. “Truth is the gateway to the present moment.” (Jeff Brown)
Third, when the feeling continues to persist, as I know sometimes it just does, it’s an opportunity to up the self-care and to to pause and allow for the processes of healing and purification to occur, just as they do for the earth on shady and rainy days. Sometimes these things just take time. So what can you do today, or on any grey day, to nurture your body and spirit? Perhaps cozy up, take a bath, talk to a good friend, be gentle with yourself and others – anything that is naturally nurturing to you and that will create a supportive environment for your healing.
And finally, one surefire way to lift your mood when all else seems dim is to expand your attention from yourself and your own dark patch to others that need some light. Step out of the shade of your own shadow and you might find your connection to the light is all around. As said in the Baha’i Writings, “The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life.” And by Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” I certainly found this to be true today, as in the middle of my muddy day I saw a mom on the playground who looked like she was having a hard time. I really wanted to get back to my own stuff, but instead I invited her for tea, and it turned out that she really needed the support. And through our conversation I felt my own spirit and sense of self lift back to its normal place of truth and light.
With the last suggestion, I’m certainly not saying that we should mask our own inner problems and avoid the deep work by acting outwardly…the processes described in #2 for clearing from within are crucial. But it is ALSO true that as we arise to serve, our spirits become aligned with the divine and we become conduits for that greater Light to shine through and within us. Change yourself, change the world. Change the world, change yourself. I think these both are true.