Due to our technological connectedness, now more than ever before people are feeling the heavy weight of severe cataclysmic and tragic events, affecting millions of people around the world, with only the promise of greater turmoil to come. It’s easy in this environment to slip into overwhelm, despair, anxiety and depression, which only makes things worse. It’s imperative to focus on self-care and personal spiritual cultivation in order to endure and protect ourselves from the negativity which confronts us.
The truth of the matter is, however, that while we may feel like these are especially dark times, throughout human history people have always had to live through untold suffering at the hands of both man and nature. While we may feel exceptionally challenged right now, we have a long human story to fall back on for guidance and comfort. This comfort can be found in a few very simple spiritual concepts which have the power to radically shift our perspective and instantly rewrite how we view the world and our role in it.
1. Letting Go
The ability to let go of emotional attachments is perhaps the greatest spiritual tool to surviving and thriving in times of adversity.
It is when our expectations of the world and its outcomes for us are in contrast to reality that we find it challenging to accept and move forward with ease through suffering.
This concept is quite aged in the archives of spiritual practice. Taoism is perhaps the oldest wisdom tradition which teaches the importance of being fully present with what is while radially releasing the expectation of what should be. Here, Master David James Lees explains the importance of letting go:
“When faced with real or imagined challenging life circumstances which provoke what I refer to as the ‘feeling of fear,’ your ability to trust and let go can be destabilised and even swing your energy wildly out of balance. Practical or emotional challenges that appear to be beyond your existing comfort zone can cause your ‘fight or flight’ mentality to swing into action. This is when it can seem advantageous not to trust or to refuse to let go of familiar and comfortable ways of thinking and acting, essentially as a means of protecting yourself. It’s almost as if you emotionally ‘batten down the hatches’ to weather an uncertain storm, but in doing so you sacrifice one of your most valuable navigation tools: your inner compass of trust and energetic connection to the Universe!”
~ David James Lees ~
2. Acknowledging the Shadow Self
Without integration and acceptance of the shadow self, the individual is doomed to suffer the travesty of disharmony and imbalance. For it is only when the shadow is recognised, not repressed, that it can be of benefit in expanding the range of possible positive outcomes in one’s life.
“It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster.”
From On the Psychology of the Unconscious by Carl Jung
This concept is about embracing the darkness within, and appreciating that as a force of nature, both individually and collectively, our shadow side serves the purpose of steering us toward growth. By acknowledging the shadow side of our existence, that is, to not resist its outbursts and messages, we are able to confront suffering and adversity with the understanding that somehow a greater interest is also being served, in the form of awakening.
“The shadow is most destructive, insidious and dangerous when habitually repressed and projected, manifesting in a myriad of psychological disturbances ranging from neurosis to psychosis, irrational interpersonal hostility, and even cataclysmic international clashes. Such deleterious symptoms, attitudes and behaviour stem from being possessed or driven by the dissociated yet undaunted shadow.”
~ Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. ~
3. Gratitude is Everything
The importance of practising gratitude cannot be understated, especially at a time when so many people are experiencing devastating losses of property and so many lives have been affected by war, terror and tragedy. If the mind is left free to run wild with negative stories and is never reinforced with positive stories, the slide into despair surely follows.
Gratitude is a timeless spiritual practice seen in nearly all great spiritual traditions. From the simple prayer of thanks for a meal, to enumerating those things in life which matter most to us, gratitude is perhaps the simplest and most powerful way to transform one’s mindset for the better. It so effective and works so quickly that even modern science is hailing it as a powerful means of controlling mindset.
“The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.
With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognise that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.
As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).
Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.”
Even leaders in fields other than spirituality have always expounded upon the benefits of cultivating a proper state of mind in order to thrive in life, both in adversity and when seeking to bring about the best version of yourself. Much of what we now know about consciousness tells us that the world is materially created first at the layer of our thoughts, and therefore, it is critical to put into practice that which we know about creating inner peace in times of chaos.
“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”
~ Dale Carnegie ~