Engaging Crisis

My eight-year-old likes to say that life is not always cupcakes and roses. In fact, there are times when it seems like our lives simply collapse. Nothing feels right,  and the will to go on goes silent. We stand on a precipice – angry, sad, and isolated – and just want to give up completely. 

Any normal person will attempt to avoid crises at all costs, right? But life just keeps on moving and serving us up one experience after another. When that job or loved one is gone, when we hate who we are, and when our actions do not get the results we want, a crisis sets in. There it is…. And we don’t feel any more prepared for it than the last time. Of course, all we really want is to feel good because it truly sucks to feel bad. Of course….

However, suppose you are a person who deeply yearns for transformation. Perhaps you have glimpsed your true nature beyond the personality. Maybe you met someone who embodied freedom, and this freedom moved you. Maybe you have a nagging sense that there is more – something more – to what the world appears to offer. If you wish to lift the veil of existence, then your crises seem to come in regular waves – there is a rhythm to collapsing and rising out of your own ashes until you break free to live fully.

Anyone on a spiritual path knows crises well and dreads their depth and intensity. Each crisis feels like you are dying. However, if you truly wish to transform – undergo a fundamental change – is that not a kind of dying? When the old ways of relating to life no longer work, are these ways not dead to you? A part of you knows that what no longer works must die, and it is during such critical times that you have an opportunity to realize that the true you has nothing to do with your life situations, pain, and dysfunction.

Who is suffering during a crisis? You may say that I am suffering, but that is not quite true. If you choose to believe that you are your pain, then you will be pain. If you choose to accept that you failed, then you and your perceived failure are one and same. You identify with your pain. Thus, you are your pain. If you accept that life has no value or meaning, then you have no meaning. And this belief feels so real that you buy into it hook, line, and sinker. After all, what else is there?

An alternative way to experience a crisis is as a tool for transformation. You feel  your pain and know that you are not the pain. You feel fear and know that your are not this fear. You feel sadness and know that you are not your emotions or your thoughts. You are something else altogether, just having an experience.

A crisis is a special experience because it temporarily destabilized every belief you have held onto and demands that you break free from feeling like you are your beliefs. A crisis is a door opening to a new possibility of freedom. You are not dying, but your impacted beliefs are. And that is the transformation process in a nutshell.

As a spiritual practitioner matures, it becomes – paradoxically – easier to move through crises. There is, in fact, an expectation that crises will come, and come again. On the other side of a crisis, there is a deeper insight into what is really going on behind the veil. During these collapses, our awareness is free to operate unimpeded by illusion.

Crises are powerful catalysts for seeing life – and yourself – from a fresh perspective. After freedom from illusion, there is only life, and there is you. Regardless of the arising situations, you know that are not your situations or experiences. You are beyond this level of handling life. The closest word to describe you is happiness, permanent and unperturbed.