When we suffer what we perceive as loss or defeat, we can abandon hope and retreat from the world. Yes, it stings. But for some, the loss feels insurmountable, plummeting them into long term despair, an understandable, permssible human response after a loved one's death, a breakup, unemployment, homelessness. In fact, not sinking into grief would make us appear suspect. But outside of those severe circumstances, how often do we prolong grief over self-inflicted rather than external losssuch as failed expectations and unmet goals?
We hang our hopes on particular desires, forgetting our flexibility and capacity for change, and subconsiously choose disappointment after unrealized outcomes. Then we mourn, convincing ourselves that all is lost, and wander through distorted emotional landscape. Here's the truth: nothing is ever lost. We get lost as we muddle through those self defeating thoughts. But we can easily reverse this buy practicing attitude adjustment.
This means shifting perspective. Take Einstein's assertion that “energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” Nothing is lost if it didn’t exist in the first place, and if it existed simply as thought, and we know that thoughts are energy, we can shift into higher consciousness. We can transform those thoughts and ourselves in turn. With spiritual helpers alongside us every step of the way, we are always fully supported in our intentions to do so.
Consider the types of daily ultimatums we give ourselves. You can fill in the blank consequence.
If I’m not married by the time I’m 35, then…... If I don’t have children…..
If I don’t get that job, that promotion, that raise…. I’m worthless.
Essentially, we steer ourselves into depression, dimming our creative potential for change. Nobody else takes us there.
The consequendes complicate the loss. Hope becomes disappointment, disappointment becomes despair, despair becomes hopelessness, and so on, and so on in an undending circle. This is not a contemporary revelation; traditional spiritual remedy for deep sorrow and its aftermath are plentiful. In Corinthians we read, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” In Isaiah, God promises, "When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.:"
Buddhism offers a practical antidote to this cycle of disappointment through the Four Noble Truths, which first recognize suffering, identify the cause of suffering, and then provides relief from suffering. It teaches us the perils of desire and attachment. Desire breeds become attached to an outcome --so we live the future, not in the present. When our desired outcome eludes us, we look backwards in regret: "what if I had done (fill in the blank) ??" Only when we can train ourselves loosen our grip on expected outcome can we live in the moment. Essentially, expectations -- not loss -- cause us grief and suffering.
But what about hope? Is it a helpful motivator or just a synonym for expectation? A poignant example from the film The Joy Luck Club comes to mind. Suyuan and her daughter June, an unmarried, childless 30-something struggling writer tells her mother she feels like a failure because she never met her expectations. Her mother said, “Never expect! Only hope!” But June replies that every time her mother hoped for soething she couldn’t deliver, “It hurt. It hurt,Mommy,” she cries. .
So how do we strike a balance between hope, expectation, optimism and living in the moment? How can we experience joy without caving to the pressure of hope and expectation, ours or someone else's?
The first two Reiki principles give us a platform we can use as a mood enhancing mantra:
Just for today, do not anger. Just for today, do not worry.
Modify these to suit your purpose: do not fear, do not fear, do no regret...Just for today, not not suffer...
Try this simple exercise. Search through your memories to identify the times you felt devastated by loss. What was the situation? Specifically, what was lost that you did not recover in some other form? The Universe does not like empty space and quickly fills the holes that seem to halt our lives. Ask yourself whether you eventually gained greater wisdom or opportunity in the wake of that experience. Did you shrivel up and die? Did you permanently wilt? Not likely. What came in its stead? Cataloging these gifts can temper your disappointments so they no longer obstruct your path path toward true fulfillment.
Rev. Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, spiritual counselor, Reiki master, and writing professor. A trained Hospice chaplain, she specializes in loss and healing with both animals and people. More information is available on her web site, www.reikidogs.com. Her e -bookIllumination: Life Lessons from our AnimalCompanions, is available on Amazon.