It is a familiar feeling, as familiar as unwanted. We have been here before, in this tunnel, many times. It is dark and cold and lonely. We have been in this tunnel many times before but it is different this time. Previous tunnels seemed shorter or maybe lighter; it was dark in there but we could still distinguish a faint light at the end of it: the light of hope, the end of pain, the end of suffering. At those times, we could feel the pressure but soon enough the shadows would lift up or there would be a helping hand to lead the way out of the uncertain situation.
It is different this time around: the tunnel is darker than ever before and we seem to have been stuck here for weeks, even for months for some. No light behind us, no way back; no light in front of us, nowhere to go. After patience, meditation, introspection, counseling, relaxation and countless similar techniques brought in to try not to succumb into despair, our nervous system is about to collapse. Sadness, despair, depression, and, of course, fear start crawling all over us. Fears as diverse as our personalities and stories: Fear of not being good enough, gentle enough, beautiful enough, charming enough, prosperous enough, (fill in the blank) enough. Why me?, why now?, what for?
Sleepless nights convince us of the futility of any further action. Now it is the turn of anxiety, resentment, and anger mixed with spells of overwhelming despair. And the darkness remains stout, thick, unflinching, not allowing a sliver of light to pierce through. What is there to do?
The answer is easy albeit hard to digest for most of us:
- “Surrender”, says the inner voice that knows everything
- “Surrender to what?”, we yell back
- “Surrender to the present”, the voice quietly reaffirms
As strange as it may seem, fighting our reality simply makes things worse as, in the process, we attract negative thoughts about not accepting our present situation. We are basically telling the universe we don’t agree with life, and by not agreeing with life, we switch ourselves immediately into negative mode, a place devoid of clarity and understanding. For, are we more intelligent than life itself? Every situation brings evolution, no matter how tough it is. Fighting it off will not only prove us incapable of solving the problem but will toss us into a spiraling of negativity and absolute lack of clarity to understand what is going on. Furthermore, trying to get out of it will have the same effect as that means we are still not accepting our present.
The tunnel is not about understanding it, or voicing its unfairness, or finding and exit door as soon as possible. It is not about seeking help, resorting to techniques, or pondering the meaning of life during endless nights. For, in all these situations, we are still denying our present reality.
The tunnel is about accepting our situation as it is, no matter how desperate or unfair. Admit it, there is simply nowhere to go so you’d better calm down and look at it in the eye. Our master move is simply to accept it, surrender to it, observe it quietly, with the trust that it is just another situation and that it will go away unannounced, exactly as it came in. That does not mean to give up but rather to face it with a resolute mind. Accept the darkness, the pain, the despair, the hopelessness. It is only in that empty mind and heart that we gather the clarity to understand the meaning of this tunnel and its teachings for the future. Then things will begin to make sense even if we can’t still see the light at the end of it. But wait, don’t rush. Walk slowly and live the whole experience so you don’t have to do it again.
Easier said than done? Maybe this is a good time to explore the realm of Mindfulness.