Struggle is a common expectation in our society. We tend to plan for it, anticipate it, and invite it into our lives. It has become so familiar that we often push away joy or peace or harmony, declaring such experiences to be unreal or temporary or frivolous.
Many folks tend to feel more alive when they are struggling against something. Work groups and whole organizations are established to compete — a form of struggle — against something. War and violence are glamorized. Ill health is considered routine. Senility is the prospect of advanced years. Suffering is considered noble. Whether we struggle against struggle or resign ourselves to struggle, we are in struggle.
And so Now, to You….
Let’s move from the collective “we” and the impersonal “they/many” to you and your inner self and outer behavior. Consider how you struggle. Knowing how you struggle will assist you in replacing your pattern with different behavior. You may also find it helpful to reflect on what you struggle against, but I caution you about lingering there too long. It is too easy to fall into the trap of explaining or blaming the “what” against which you struggle. Your struggle is not about the other person or thing; your struggle is about you.
So pick something real in your life that you struggle against, just to give yourself a laboratory. It may be some little annoyance, such as a spouse’s dirty socks on the floor or wet lingerie in the shower stall. Or you may select something work related, such as a co-worker’s competence or an assignment you dread. For the purpose of this initial exercise, select an issue that you classify as a small to medium concern. Practicing on something real but not overwhelming will give you courage to explore something you consider a major struggle.
Bring this idea or issue into your mind and feel the feelings. You may find it helpful to close your eyes to stay focused on the task. What does the struggle feel like? What sensations do you feel in your body and where do you feel them? What emotions do you feel and how do you feel them? Hear what you say about this issue to yourself. What does the resistance/struggle sound like? What color is the struggle? How big or small is the struggle?
Identify all the reactions and signals and sensations and feelings and emotions that you can. Try not to deny anything that comes into your awareness as you read this. How does your neck feel? Your shoulders? Your stomach? Do you feel agitated or impatient? Do you want to do something else? Are you fascinated by the sensations?
How you respond to these questions suggests how you respond to struggle in other parts of your life. While you may want to believe that this is just a hypothetical exercise, it is not. It is a real exercise, one that can train your awareness and all the muscles in your being to choose responses other than struggle. It is helpful to know how you struggle if you wish to change your pattern.
Often when I talk to people about “holding on” and “letting go” I experience their resistance. What variety! (And, yes, I experience my own resistance, my own brand of struggle, which helps me to speak with greater authority on the subject.) In certain situations in our culture we celebrate goodbyes or endings well.
Graduations are endings we tend to do well. Graduations are also recognized as beginnings. Yet, so too, are all endings! That is the point. When we say goodbye to something that we no longer want or need or when we say goodbye to someone who is ready to leave, a space opens for something or someone else. This is a process, not a linear sequential set of cause and effect steps. However, if you find it easier to perceive this process as linear, do so.
So, are you ready to graduate from the School of Struggle? If you choose to stay longer, you will continue to learn. That is guaranteed. Keep in mind, though, that you are likely to learn and re-learn and re-learn again the same lessons. Other schools await your enrollment. The School of Joy. The School of Peace. The School of Abundance. The School of Love. The School of Health. The School of Laughter. The School of Enlightenment. The School of Mastery.
Entrance exams are simple: Give up struggle for freedom, fear for love, illness for health, pain for joy, hopelessness for mastery, etc. Say goodbye to those experiences you have completed or to those persons whose relationships with you have ended. You will not be able to stay in The School of Joy if you hold onto struggle — you will be expelled or asked to take a leave of absence. Merely enrolling in The School of Love is not enough, you must practice unconditional love and not cut classes to get intimate with fear. You can stay in these schools even though you occasionally fail an exam or re-visit your old school. The principals/principles of these schools are infallible; the teachers, exacting and loving.
Our joyous goodbyes often prompt us to give a party, a celebration. We do this on New Year’s Eve: to say “goodbye” to the old year and “hello” to the new one. We do this for school graduations: to celebrate the ending of education in one institution and recognize the rite of passage to another institution or the military or the “real world” as we are fond of saying. We do this for retirements, sometimes accompanied by the gold watch: to honor the work place contributions and welcome the retirement years.
So, why not create a Goodbye Party for Struggle? You may prefer to have a Hello Freedom Party, instead. However, if you need to say goodbye or thank something or someone who has been with you, focusing on the goodbye or graduation party will be useful. You will not be successful claiming “all is well” or “life is good” while fierce anger or pain or unresolved issues are dominant in you. Celebrate the passage.
If struggle has been your friend, give a going away party or a hello freedom party to celebrate the release of this energy. Thank struggle for being a teacher. Make the party your unique event: buy balloons or not. Celebrate your party alone or with friends. Let an object represent the struggle and release the object to the trash or a fire or the great outdoors. Use rituals that have meaning for you. Welcome in the new opportunity.
Goodbye, Struggle, goodbye.