We live in a challenging time, a time when many are suffering, confused, disappointed, and for those facing life-threatening circumstances, broken.
I, like many of you, worry about how to help, both myself and others. How to find solid ground. How to do something of benefit.
Today, I listened to a podcast that offered a way to think about both the slight and the horrible challenges we face. Jonathan Fields, of GoodLife Project, interviewed Julie Piatt, the plant-based chef, healer, wife, mother, and artist who has created a remarkable health movement with her husband and co-authored The Plantpower Way.
The interview is wide-ranging, but one point she makes pertains to my opening question about how to help myself absorb and address productively the challenges facing us on so many fronts—political, social, personal, psychological. She says,
“If you’re really blessed, you’ll be given a sacred moment, a moment when you are on your knees, facing a problem you can’t solve with positive thinking. You have no choice but to be in it fully and face the discomfort and pain. When this happens, you become very clear. These moments chisel you into a servant; you understand you are not in control of any of this. You must submit your life. These are huge gifts for the soul.”
One has to be thoughtful about when it’s appropriate to suggest that a bad experience is a “gift.” And yet, many wisdom traditions teach that every experience is a gift, for they are here not to make us happy, but to wake us up; not to make us comfortable, but to nudge us in a different direction; not to lead to smugness, but to encourage compassion. Our challenges are uniquely designed to guide us toward who we are meant to be, and thus toward how we are able to serve.
As I struggle daily with what I see happening in our world, I urge myself to avoid judging or critiquing the distasteful and disturbing events, and try to see them from a larger point of view. See them as a battle between two world views, one struggling to survive, another yearning to be born. I strive to face what these challenging times show me about my own habits of mind, my own limiting assumptions, my own eagerness to blame “the other” instead of evolve my self.
In the interview, Julie Piatt asks three questions of us:
What am I doing?
Why am I doing it?
Is it aligned with my highest intentions?
Through these questions, she says, we might find our authentic expression toward a life challenge. The sacred moment, she says, is the way we gain the fortitude it takes to give voice to our authentic self.
This way of approaching a sacred moment takes a sturdiness of heart many of us do not yet have. It takes a kind of faith, and ultimately a kind of hope, that something good and new is trying to emerge through us—that something good and new will emerge through us, if we let it.
If the only thing I can do today is sit quietly and hold the pain of the sacred moment we collectively face, that might be a good start. I sit in the discomfort of what we have become—and dedicate myself to becoming what we can be. I pray for sturdiness of heart.