– by Mary O’Malley
I have been graced for years by an exquisite willow tree outside my bedroom window. One spring evening, a rainstorm moved in and I was drawn to look out the window. The willow was in the beginning stages of putting on her summer dress of vibrant green, and the sky framing the willow was black and stormy, as rain danced horizontally past my window.
Suddenly, the clouds opened up on the horizon, allowing the setting sun to bathe this stormy sea with its vibrant light. The myriad rain drops on the willow’s branches were immediately transformed into individual prisms of light. It was so breathtakingly beautiful that tears came to my eyes. As I looked out the window on the other side of the house, there was a double rainbow, crystal clear against the dark and forbidding clouds. I knew as I watched this gift of beauty that it was a metaphor for my life. Without the stormy sky to frame the opening for the setting sun, the beauty of the willow would not have been highlighted, and without both the rain and the sun, the rainbow wouldn’t have been born.
Life can be a very fierce process, some days much like the weather. Some days are like spring where there is openness and delight. Some days are like summer, filled with contentment. Some days are like fall, with the need to pull ‘inside’. And some days (and phases of our lives) are like winter – cold, with fierce winds and driving rain. Thinking back upon my childhood and young adulthood, I never expected that my darkest, stormiest states would be the greatest teachers in my life. As a young adult, I was in the depths of darkness after experiencing an extremely painful childhood. I was raised with sexual abuse, began over-eating at age 10, numbed myself with alcohol and drugs in my teens, and at the age of 22, gained 97 pounds in one year. In my early-twenties, I was admitted to two psychiatric hospitals and attempted suicide three times. As Life was crashing down on me, my doctor told me that if I continued on this destructive path, I would be dead in five months.
While living in a world of hate and dread, I made the decision to go to a yoga workshop one day and it was there that I experienced an amazing breakthrough: the realization that I did not need to fix, change or rearrange any of my ‘broken parts’. Rather, I discovered that the path to my freedom was bringing curiosity and compassion to all of the states of mind and body that I had been trying to control or change all of my life. This breakthrough was the doorway to my freedom and the beginning of my journey from living an unconscious life to a life of healing, compassion, and well-being.
The darker states that are a part of being a human being – fear, sadness, anger, self-judgment – become much more workable when we learn that they are just like the weather—never static, always changing, coming and going for the rest of our lives. And they pass through the vast spaciousness of who we truly are. We don’t see this because we are so busy resisting them! If we don’t resist, those seemingly static states float through us like clouds moving across the face of the sun.
A friend of mine teaches white-water kayaking. Dancing down the river, cascading over rapids, navigating around boulders, it is a very real possibility that at some time the students will be tossed into the seething cauldron of a whirlpool (just like the whirlpools of our daily lives). The raging water pulls them down and tumbles them around. The students instinctual reaction is to fight it (exactly how we fight the struggles in our lives), but what he teaches them to do is to let go and allow the water to move them as it will. In that non-resistance, the water will lift them up to the top and they can then make their way to safety. The same is true for our lives; it is our resistance to what we don’t like inside of us that actually sucks us into the vortex of struggle and keeps us caught there. And yet turning toward our experience, and simply bearing witness to it rather than falling into it or running away, allows these states to visit us temporarily and then they move through us like clouds in the sky.
Whenever an old state comes rising to the surface of my life, I may initially have a reaction to it, but I know and trust a deep law of the human psyche… ‘What I resist persists!’ So I look and listen and give whatever is there the spaciousness it needs so it can move through me. I then gather the gifts that the darker states always leave in their wake. So, be curious about what clouds are passing through the vast spaciousness of your true self and be kind to yourself in whatever phase of weather you are experiencing right now. May you come to realize that all of the challenges in your life are for you!
Meet the Author: Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor and awakening mentor in Kirkland, Washington. In the early 1970’s, a powerful awakening led Mary to begin changing her relationship with her challenges, freeing her from a lifelong struggle with darkness. Mary’s latest book, What’s In the Way IS the Way, provides a revolutionary approach for healing our fears, anxieties, shame, and confusion, so we can live from a place of ease and well-being. www.maryomalley.com
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What’s in the Way, Is the Way
Available from Watkins Books