“The truth is that the only time we ever really “fail” at anything in our life is when we mistakenly walk away from it before we’ve allowed it to teach us its secret ways.”
How do we normally develop a new skill? For example, how do we learn to high jump? We listen to instruction, and perhaps we watch someone else; but for the most part, we learn by doing; by trying it ourselves. Generally, with our first attempts we end up crashing into rather than clearing the bar, and when we do, there’s no denying it. We can see, and feel, that we’ve come up short. Our collapsed condition tells us, unmistakably, that we’ve done something wrong. So now, we try a new angle of approaching the bar, or a new technique of leaving the ground. We do this over and over. And each time we fail to hit the mark, we see we’ve made a mistake and we alter our behavior, knowing that eventually our self-correction will lift us to the success we desire.
These elementary but exact laws of learning are the same when it comes to our psychological and spiritual development. Each time we feel an emotional pain, we should use that as a signal that we’ve made a mistake, that we’ve crashed and now need to find and try another new way. For example, our presently pained position is the proof that our past responses to personal crises are inadequate to clear the barriers we still are crashing into — that we not only need a new way to meet life, but that our old ways just don’t work. The problem for most of us is that we rarely allow ourselves to learn in this way. We have hundreds of experiences each day in which our expectations crash into reality. Whenever this happens, we have a close encounter of the truthful kind, because in that same moment of trial we see for an instant that we really don’t know what to do. These small and large self-crashes in themselves are not a problem. They are, in a way, the school of life. The problem is that we won’t admit we don’t know what to do. We don’t use the event to learn a new response. Instead, we become defensive and return to the same mindset that led to our latest collision. We tell ourselves we understand the cause of getting hurt, and that we know what or whom to blame. And once we’ve assessed fault through this unseen faulty approach, then we know what to do. Some self pops up and tells us to “act happy,” “eat something,” “call a friend,” “think about it.” But none of these responses has ever made us better equipped to handle the next crisis. We persist in our belief that we know what to do, and instead of trying something different, we just return to the familiar route.
Until we understand where the true cause of our unhappiness lies, we can never be happy. As long as our preconceived notions about life run into the reality of it we will continue to feel like we’re on the losing side, and since we do not learn from the crash, the process continues. We feel that our lives are out of control, and they are.
We start learning from life when we stop blaming reality, and accept that it was our lack of understanding that created the perceived problem. Our sincere wish to learn cannot fail to attract the healing truth we desire, which can then become a part of us and act through us. This can only happen through our own self-work. No one can tell us the truth, for then it would not become a part of our own nature. We must test our beliefs and question our responses for ourselves. When we begin to understand the truth about reality, and our own place in it (because we have actually entered into it for ourselves), that truth, along with all its power, becomes our own.
Excerpted from Seeker’s Guide to Self-Freedom by Guy Finley, 2002.