Life is the province of learning, and the wisdom we acquire throughout our lives is the reward of existence. As we traverse the winding roads that lead from birth to death, experience is our patient teacher. We exist, bound to human bodies as we are, to evolve, enrolled by the universe in earth school, an informal and individualized academy of living, being, and changing. Life’s lessons can take many forms and present us with many challenges. There are scores of mundane lessons that help us learn to navigate with grace, poise, and tolerance in this world. And there are those once-in-a-lifetime lessons that touch us so deeply that they change the course of our lives. The latter can be heartrending, and we may wander through life as unwilling students for a time. But the quality of our lives is based almost entirely on what we derive from our experiences.
Earth school provides us with an education of the heart and the soul, as well as the intellect. The scope of our instruction is dependent on our ability and readiness to accept the lesson laid out before us in the circumstances we face. When we find ourselves blindsided by life, we are free to choose to close our minds or to view the inbuilt lesson in a narrow-minded way. The notion that existence is a never-ending lesson can be dismaying at times. The courses we undertake in earth school can be painful as well as pleasurable, and as taxing as they are eventually rewarding. However, in every situation, relationship, or encounter, a range of lessons can be unearthed. When we choose to consciously take advantage of each of the lessons we are confronted with, we gradually discover that our previous ideas about love, compassion, resilience, grief, fear, trust, and generosity could have been half-formed.
Ultimately, when we acknowledge that growth is an integral part of life and that attending earth school is the responsibility of every individual, the concept of “life as lesson” no longer chafes. We can openly and joyfully look for the blessing buried in the difficulties we face without feeling that we are trapped in a roller-coaster ride of forced learning. Though we cannot always know when we are experiencing a life lesson, the wisdom we accrue will bless us with the keenest hindsight.
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If you’ve ever found yourself repressing your anger and behaving in other ways to get your point across, you may be someone who is adept at engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. Although passive-aggressive behavior is recognized as a psychological disorder, it also describes the behavior that many people use to cope with confrontational situations. Such behavior has the outward appearance of being peaceful, yet it is really an attempt to express oneself in seemingly passive ways—usually without accepting responsibility for doing so. For example, someone who doesn’t want to attend an event with a partner might engage in behavior that causes them to be late or miss the event without ever admitting to their partner that they never wanted to go to the function at all. Procrastination, inefficiency, stubbornness, and sullenness are some of the many ways that anger can be expressed indirectly.
It is important not to judge ourselves when we engage in passive-aggressive behavior. You may want to consider that you are not owning your feelings or your expression by indirectly expressing yourself. Perhaps you are judging your feelings and needs as wrong—which is why you are expressing yourself indirectly. You also may be worried that others will judge you for feeling the way that you do. Remember that anger and every other emotion are never good or bad. They can, however, become toxic of you don’t express them in healthy and proactive ways. When we express ourselves directly, we are more likely to be heard by the other person. It also becomes easier for us to ask for and get what we want.
Once we learn to be honest with ourselves about our feelings, we can begin to directly express ourselves to others. By learning to express ourselves directly, we prevent misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment from cropping up in our relationships. We also learn to communicate with others in healthy and productive ways. It is never too late to start working on ourselves and our behaviors, just take it one day at a time.
Things That Annoy Us
There are many stories of spiritual masters embracing the presence of an annoying student in their community. There is even one story that documents a teacher paying an irritating person to live among his students. From an everyday perspective, this is difficult to comprehend. We generally work hard to avoid people and things that we find annoying so they don’t bother us.
From a deeper spiritual perspective, however, irritation can be an important teacher and indicator that we are making progress on our path. Being able to remain centered and awake even when we feel uncomfortable is much more impressive than doing so in an environment where everything is to our liking. No matter how good we are at controlling our circumstances, there will always be factors and people that we cannot control. How we respond to these experiences to a great degree determines the quality of our lives. The goal of spiritual development is not to learn to control our environment—which is more of an ego-driven desire. And while having some measure of control over our external reality is important, it is when we are confronted with a person or situation that irritates us and we can choose not to react that we know have made progress spiritually. It is when we have mastered our internal reality that we will have become the masters of our lives.
The more we try to eliminate annoyances, instead of learning to handle them gracefully, the further we get from developing the qualities that come with spiritual growth, such as patience, tolerance, and acceptance. It is often in the presence of people and experiences we find annoying that we have an opportunity to develop these qualities. Fortunately for most of us, our lives offer an abundance of opportunities to practice and cultivate these traits.
The Power of Not Knowing .....CLICK & SEE
There is wisdom in not knowing, and it is a wise person who can say, “I don’t know.” For no one knows everything. There are many types of wisdom – from intellectual to emotional to physical intelligence. Yet, even deemed experts in their fields do not know all there is to know about mathematics, yoga, literature, psychology, or art. It is a true master who professes ignorance, for only an empty vessel can be filled.
There are many things in life that we don’t know, and there are many things we may have no interest in finding out. There is freedom in saying “I don’t know.” When we admit that we don’t know something, we can then open ourselves up to the opportunity to learn. And there is power in that. We can’t possibly know everything. And when we think we do, we limit ourselves from growing and learning more than what we already do know. A person who can admit to not knowing tends to be more intellectually and emotionally confident than someone who pretends to know everything. They also tend to be more comfortable with who they are and don’t feel the need to bluff or cover up any perceived ignorance. People can actually end up appearing more foolish when they act as if they know something that they don’t.
We would be wise to respect people who freely admit when they don’t know something. They are being honest, with us and with themselves. And we, too, should feel no shame in saying, “I don’t know.” In doing so, we open ourselves up to the unknown. We can then discover what lies beyond our current levels of understanding. It is the wise person in life that answers questions with a question and inspires the pursuit of internal answers with a funny face, a shrug, and a comical, “I don’t know.”
Our feelings can sometimes present a very challenging aspect of our lives. We experience intense emotions without understanding precisely why and consequently find it difficult to identify the solutions that will soothe our distressed minds and hearts. Yet it is only when we are capable of naming our feelings that we can tame them by finding an appropriate resolution. We retake control of our personal power by becoming courageous enough to articulate, out loud and concisely, the essence of our emotions. Our assuming ownership of the challenges before us in this way empowers us to shift from one emotional state to another-we can let go of pain and upset because we have defined it, examined the effect it had on our lives, and then exerted our authority over it by making it our own. By naming our feelings, we claim the right to divest ourselves of them at will.
As you prepare to acknowledge your feelings aloud, gently remind yourself that being specific is an important part of exercising control. Whatever the nature of your feelings, carefully define the reaction taking place within you. If you are afraid of a situation or intimidated by an individual, try not to mince words while giving voice to your anxiety. The precision with which you express yourself is indicative of your overall willingness to stare your feelings in the face without flinching. Naming and claiming cannot always work in the vacuum of the soul. There may be times in which you will find the release you desire only by admitting your feelings before others. When this is the case, your ability to outline your feelings explicitly can help you ask for the support, aid, or guidance you need without becoming mired in the feelings that led you to make such an admission in the first place.
When you have moved past the apprehension associated with expressing your distressing feelings out loud, you may be surprised to discover that you feel liberated and lightened. This is because the act of making a clear connection between your circumstances and your feelings unravels the mystery that previously kept you from being in complete control of your emotional state. To give voice to your feelings, you must necessarily let them go. In the process, you naturally relax and rediscover your emotional equilibrium.