I am writing this essay from the backwaters of a major ebb. I am on the 9th day of an ultimately harmless, but immensely annoying illness. I’m stuck. Nothing is moving, and no apparent progress seems made~~no matter that I am doing all those good and right things one is supposed to do when sick. Given this state of affairs, I’m being challenged to thrive with what is.
I’ve always had particular difficulty maintaining a good frame of mind when my body feels bad. Whether from pain or illness or lack of sleep, it’s easy for me to sink into an emotional funk, even a spiritual one, when I’m physically distressed. I suspect this is in part evidence of having been given a body that is seldom seriously ill. If I had an omnipresent physical ailment, wouldn’t I learn to swim a bit better in the ebb tides? I certainly hope so.
However, this issue extends beyond physical maladies, and I know it is not unique to me. During most of life, things are happening. Like it or not, there is movement, a progression, and hence something for a person to do. But other times, nada. We feel stale, weary to our core. Our best efforts seem futile, and there is nothing to do but wait for the tide to turn.
Stagnant periods are likely particularly difficult for those of us who most dearly hold a belief in personal control. We find these times try-ing because try as we might, nothing changes. We, or at least our small wills, are powerless.
Personal power~~a complex concept indeed. On the one hand is the idea that we are more powerful than we dare believe, as so splendidly voiced in the passage Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. On the other lies the stream of debacles we humans create as we attempt to force life to meet our expectations.
I suspect a main purpose of our time here on earth is to resolve this dichotomy. We humans do have a depth of untapped resources, as well as a tendency to force our wills. I think the key is to discern, in each instance, the province of our personal influence, to act appropriately therein, and to let the rest be. This notion has never been more simply and clearly expressed than in the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
When we find our lives in ebb mode, we need to scrutinize the situation with an honest and wise eye to ascertain if there is, in fact, further action that is ours to take. If so, act. If not, then it’s time to give the ebb its due and let go. Accept. We need to ride that receding tide, trusting that the waters will turn once again.
But how exactly do we ride the ebb with good grace? There’s the rub~~and the growth. We need to repeatedly align ourselves with something larger than personal discomfort. Those of us with a spiritual bent are obliged to embrace the constancy of that vast ocean, while feeling the sway of its individual tides.
And if we fall short again and again, no matter. We’ll be given opportunities galore to perfect this capacity that lies insufficiently developed within us all. Keeping this greater task in mind will likely bring at least a bit of relief our way when we’re stuck. And by using our stuckness to reinforce our loyalty to a truer vision, we will, at the very least, have something to do!
So, I’m off to gargle, swallow some more immune boosting supplements, and soak in a hot bath. And as the steam rises from those healing waters, I will also consciously breathe a dazzling radiance into my ailing body and spirit.
Blessings of health and growth to you all!
A few days later...the tide has turned! I am feeling much better.