(Excerpted from Let Go and Live in the Now, Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004: 650 words)
Here is a great spiritual secret: the only time we ever “fail” at anything in our lives is when we mistakenly walk away from what has challenged us before we’ve allowed it to teach us its secret ways.
Imagine we want to learn a new skill; for fun, let’s say we’d like to run the high hurdles (a lot like life, isn’t it?). Perhaps we buy an instruction book; maybe go watch runners compete at the track. A good beginning, but eventually we must learn by doing; we must leap for ourselves. Our first attempts to sail over the hurdle usually fail. More than likely, we crash! And we know we missed the mark because we’re on the ground. So, we pick ourselves up. We try again. Maybe we try running at a different speed, or we work to better time our jump. And we progress because each time we come up short, we make changes. We have realized that part of what it takes to succeed requires that we let go of what hasn’t worked in our approach.
Here’s the point: the same laws that help us learn how to clear hurdles on a track (or anywhere else in life) also hold true when it comes to rising above ourselves. Making the leap to the Higher Life our heart longs for begins with coming to recognize and release the parts of us that now hold us down.
Let’s take an example: whenever we fall into a familiar dark state or recurring state of stress, we need to welcome these moments for what they can teach us about ourselves. Clearly, our aching in such moments is evidence that our past responses to similar crises are inadequate. That we are still crashing into these old hurdles proves that our past responses no longer serve us. We must let them go, because they can take us no higher. This is why the Wise ones see any crisis in life as a “close encounter of the truthful kind.” Which brings us to the main lesson:
We will never realize what heights we can reach in life until we stop blaming reality for what happens to us as we go through it. This deliberate break with the “blame game” is the first leap — especially as it pertains to crashing twice into the same place in life. Despite appearances, our pain is not because life has set the hurdle too high; no, we only “fall” into fear and judging ourselves when we fail to learn the lesson in the pain — which is something we are empowered to do. Once the lesson is learned, where’s the hurdle or our hurt? Behind us! Discovering the truth of ourselves has taken us above and beyond that former barrier. Let’s review:
A crisis only becomes a breaking point when we fail to use it as a turning point. And a “turning point” is just that: rather than fall into old resentments or regrets, instead of returning to that defensive mindset that believes blaming others is the same as changing ourselves — an action that changes nothing except what we lash out at — we learn to look in a whole new direction for correction.
Now we are learning what it means to use those times when we “fall” as a window of opportunity: to see that we have gone as high as we can with what we know; and then, right there we quietly let go of “who” we have been up to that point. Our wish and our inner work to actualize it sows for us the seeds of a Higher Life. And for our interior work is born in us a new level of self, one that never collapses before a crisis because it knows it lives in a world where nothing has to fall that chooses to rise.