So, looking ahead, I could see that there were a series of bumps in the road as I was driving along. Tim was sitting beside me, ‘riding shotgun’. ‘What will you do?’, said Tim.
Immediately, three options sprang to mind: (1) avoid the bumps, if possible, or (2) head into the bumps in the road, but go very slowly, or (3) head into the bumps but increase speed to get through them quickly.
Ofcourse, the road bumps options, above, is an analogy representing some of the challenges we may face in our amazing journey of life here on Earth – and though there may be many options when faced with life’s complexities, we’ll look at three, to ponder over.
These life ‘bumps’ can take all kind of guises, and each person will react in a different way. What is a small ‘challenge’ to one person, may be an enormous ‘challenge’ to someone else. And though my prayer for you (and myself) is that there will be no (more) bumps in your life, I am afraid they will happen. So, what to do?
Choice #1: Avoid the ‘bumps’, if you can: One course of action might be to avoid life’s challenges, if at all possible. However, this might not be possible and then other options have to be considered. But, avoidance may be the best way forward, by going around the ‘bump’s, by taking action to steer a course around such obstacles, challenges of life. How, you do that depends on the event, and you. The positive effect: an easier life. The negative effect: you might actually miss out on an important life learning experience.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Depending of the life event, I always advocate expressing gratitude for having been able to avoid the event. But, as Rumi wrote, such life ‘bumps’ may have a positive role to play in our life. So, even if you can avoid a particular life’s ‘bump’, it may be necessary to purposely go through it, experience it, and learn from it. Now, there’s something to think about.
Choice #2: Head into the ‘bumps’ but go slowly: If we have no choice but to encounter a ‘bump’ in life and have to go through it, then going slowly, gingerly, savouring each moment, weighing each action and reaction and making an informed choice, may be the best option. I’ve found that in doing so, I can do so grudgingly (and then the life ‘bump’ seems be magnified and seemingly stays around longer), or I can do so gracefully (whilst being authentic – after all, there’s no sense in being incongruous) and then I’ve noticed the event seems more ‘copable’. Ofcourse, expressing gratitude, albeit very difficult at this time, may be beneficial, too.
‘Keep your chin up. That crown is too expensive to hit the ground.’ Anonymous.
How you react to these life ‘bumps’ will depend on the event and you. I can only say that for me the following works: keeping a daily journal and writing in it how I honestly feel (writing seems to help), finding a close friend that will (just) listen, getting expert opinions and taking reasonable action, trying not to worry, trying to find the learning experience within the event, praying (yes, I know its old-fashioned, but it seems to work and has helped me) and undertaking a ritual (maybe a Caim) and invoking the favour of the Source (and I am indebted to my (Celtic) Christian friends, Druid friends, Pagan friends, and my Muslim friends etc for their prayers, rituals etc), being objective and ‘ditching’ subjective and excessively-worrying thoughts, meditation, forest-walks (solvitur ambulando), to remind myself that I am not this event, and to have hope. And, to remember the following story:
“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah,, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. You six months to find it.”
“If it exists anywhere on earth I will bring it to you, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”, he said.
“It has great power,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad; and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.”
Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah, who was trevelling far and wide, had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before his six month quest was up, Benaiah who was back home, decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a ring of great power that makes the happy wearer forget his joy, and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.
He watched the older man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave some words on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. This was the ring. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday with great festivity, and King Solomon appeared.
“Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed, and Solomon himself knowingly smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!”
As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, and that everything on earth changes.”
Choice #3: Head into the ‘bumps’ but increase speed: This is a variation of Choice #2, but (as one would expect) faster. There may be good reasons for this, but much of what was mentioned above still applies. But, there is a danger that any underlying learning experience may be lost.
When I was undergoing three cycles of chemo (some ten years ago, and received the ‘all clear’ five years ago), I read one of Mark Nepo’s books, and in it he wrote:
An aging sage grew tired of his apprentice complaining all the time, and so, one morning, he sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water, and then to drink it. “How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter”, said the apprentice.
The master laughed heartily, and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and throw it in the lake. The sage said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
‘Very fresh’, said the young man.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man. At this, the master sat beside this young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, and said, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things …. stop being a glass. Become a lake.”
Becoming the lake is expanding our horizons, during those tough times, developing new habits, and experiencing more of life, to overcome the limiting ‘road bump’ and to experience more of life. It seems to work.
What do you think?
This article is only an outline, and my heart goes out to all those that are experiencing a life ‘bump’, perhaps a major ailment at the moment. The abovementioned is really for those, maybe all of us, when we’re not going through such life ‘bumps’ and to prepare us. Actually, enduring such a life ‘bump’ can be altogether too personal and too painful. It’s then that that special friend, prayer and ritual is ever-so more important.