Recylced Art Inspiration CardsReader: This is a long post that details working through a crisis to find light on the other side. It’s longer than usual, but hopefully will be worth the read if you find yourself in a dark place and need a lifeboat.

I believe that our most meaningful growth comes from the darkest moments in life. These are the times when we dare to look the devil in the eye and determine if we are going to take a stand and step into our brilliance or give up and succumb to the beatings and have nothing to show for it.

I had one of those moments this week. A George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) crisis of life that rocked my foundation – a 10.0 on the Richter scale of bad days. The places that previously had been safe for me to turn, where I could be vulnerable and process, had been breached and they weren’t an option on this day. I knew I had to do the work and process this on my own. I also knew it was vital for me to process what was happening in my head because that was where the “reality” was created. We humans are amazingly creative and can design entire worlds in our heads that don’t exist in reality – we’ve just labeled them as “real” and wave our magic wand and believe in the truth of it. Most of the time, it’s pure bull shit, but we buy into it. I bought it – hook, line and sinker.

I questioned everything about my life. What I’ve done; what I haven’t done. Have I made a difference? Am I good person behaving badly in moments or am I a bad person trying to be good? Am I following my purpose? Am I making the difference I’m here to make or am I playing small? Am I principled and do I have the courage to consistently follow my principles? Do I love deeply enough and, more importantly, what do I do with those I simply cannot love? How do I get to be a true light in the world if I feel hatred? I believe with the conviction of my very existence that it requires love to cure the hatred, anger and violence in the world. The only thing hatred, anger and violence begets is more of the same – look at the Mid East and I rest my case. If we want to stop the cycle, it has to come from love. I know this at my cellular level and spiritual level. So if this is a core, foundational belief for me, what do I do when I can’t reach that standard and fall short?

My day turned into a mid-life crisis packed into one day. A lifetime of doing personal development work was the only thing that allowed me to survive this day, because survival was the best I could hope for and it would be my measure of success. When I recognized how bad my mental condition was, I immediately dropped into meditation. Another of my core beliefs is meditation is the source of accessing the wisdom each of us has within us. I believe we have the answers to all that we seek right inside our very being – we simply need to take the time to get quiet and go within, ask for the guidance we seek and be willing to receive. In our fast-paced, technology enslaved culture where everyone is looking for the quick fix (“Isn’t there a pill for that?”), the excuses are rampant for not meditating – I don’t have the time; I can’t quiet my mind; I don’t know how; I don’t believe it works; I’ve got an app for that. If you break each down, it’s an excuse and resistance. It’s amazing to see how much people resist something so very simple that can be done anywhere and can provide you with the very answers you seek. Maybe if it was more gimmicky, they’d give it a try. But I digress.

I meditated throughout the day and could access some centering and peace. I was guided by more questions to seek more answers. I honored what I was experiencing while acknowledging that it only felt real – it was not, in fact, real. My body didn’t believe my assessment – it was convinced it was real. My mind needed to traverse through this darkness to reach the light that I knew was on the other side, but it was not yet even a flicker. Only faith allowed me to know there would be a light even if all that was in front of me was dark.

Next up, the crying game. I cried. A lot. All day. I believe crying is cathartic. It’s a release of that which is pent up within us that wants out. I let it out. I released it and let it all go. I didn’t judge it or feel badly for crying or tell myself to suck it up. I wasn’t at that stage – yet. I knew I needed to be gentle and let everything flow and follow it down the rabbit hole to see where it would lead me.

Zorro and JoanI walked Zorro, my ever-faithful canine companion who never lets me down. We walked in nature and let Mother Earth provide a salve to my human wounds. Nature is healing and it whispers to your soul if you let it. Open your mind and heart as best you can and the winds of time, the energy of all that’s been before you, the expansiveness of life, will provide its elixir.

My mind was like an incessant, belligerent child and it wanted to rant. I initially allowed the rant to get it out of my system. After all, what we resist persists so in an effort to deflate some of its power, I gave my mind full rein to spew. However, I set the parameters that what was being spewed was not in my best interest, was not real and that I was not to take any of it seriously – just let it out. The other rule – don’t judge the thoughts. I’m mad, hurt and upset and I simply needed a release valve to get them out of my system. I didn’t need to add judgment as to their quality or veracity. Once I let the nastiest of my thoughts take flight and freed myself of their stranglehold, I could start filtering what was left and decide if I needed to reflect more on them or release them as pointless anchors purely designed to keep me festering in the primordial ooze of crap.

Food. That’s a loaded topic on days like this. It would be very easy to emotionally eat and drink. But that’s never part of a solution – it’s only a distraction that ends up adding to the turmoil if allowed to run roughshod on your already challenging day. No, food needs to be proactively administered. It’s a comfort and I don’t want it to be a crutch. The balance – discipline and comfort. I decided to make one of my favorite meals and I opened an exquisite bottle of wine to savor with the meal. I limited my wine to 2 glasses since my maniacal mind would have me drink the entire bottle. I savored each bite and drink and experienced the decadence of life simply created. A reminder of the quality of life I’ve created. It hit the mark.

Finally, I had to experience real life with real consequences and real hardships through the lives of others to get a real world perspective. I knew I had to watch the movie Lone Survivor. It was now 10:00 p.m., but there was no choice in the matter and my instincts prevailed.

I rented the movie and cuddled up on my couch with sparkling water. The movie starts with the Navy Seals in training. Navy Seals in training epitomizes the conditioning that human beings can endure to train their body, mind and spirit to survive under the harshest of conditions. It will take them to the edge of death. Most trainees flush out and can’t take the physical, mental and emotional rigors. It’s not for the faint of heart and it is for only those who are true warriors. Warriors with a purpose. These men train to be the very best they can be to endure the worst of conditions to protect that which is sacred to them. I call on their greatness when I work out. I can be a fanatic and I like to push myself to my very limits to see what I can do. What can my body accomplish? Is my mind in alignment to support my physical pursuant? I know I don’t have what it takes to be a Seal, but I like to work out, train my mind and body, as if I did.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I’m going to share its story and ending so you may want to skip to the end of this post to avoid a spoiler.

The Lone Survivor is based on a true story of four Navy Seals on a mission to kill a dangerous Al Qaeda leader in a remote mountain village of Afghanistan. First, the physical rigors met them as they traversed the mountain from the drop point to get to the remote village. Then, the mental stepped up. Several Afghani goat herders stumbled upon the Seals and the Seals had to subdue them. The million dollar, life defining questions ensued: Do we kill them to avoid detection? Do we leave them tied up out here in the elements to die? Do we let them go, abort the mission and hope to get back for extraction before they reach the village and send out Al Qaeda operatives?

These are questions that are unfathomable to me to consider from the comfort of my couch. I tried to get my head around the very real context that these warriors found themselves in and had to find an answer. The mental toughness to handle issues of morality, self preservation, and mission in the context of a war. Their lives could hinge on the decision. One of the Afghan men epitomized pure hatred for Americans – it oozed from his very essence and it was palpable on screen. I could only imagine the strain of the decision after spending so much time in a war torn region that revolved around hatred and butchery. How does that change your decision making abilities? After seasoned debate, they chose morality. They freed the Afghan men and scrambled to high ground to call for extraction.

Here’s where the story gets brutal. The Seals communication does not work and they can’t reach the base to extract them. The Afghans are quicker on the mountain terrain. Soon, the Al Qaeda soldiers are covering the mountain side and the four Seals are fighting for their lives. I don’t know that I have sufficient command of my writing skills to capture what I witnessed during the fight for their lives. As I sit here, struggling for words to capture the essence of warriors, I’m overwhelmed by the level of sacrifice they willingly put on the line for their convictions. These men endured brutal hardships that I only know from nightmares that are not real. They were shot, forced to jump over cliffs to try to survive, physically broken in ways that ripped my heart and I had to watch through covered eyes, yet their spirit NEVER died. They did the unimaginable to survive and help each other survive. And they chose this life.

When rescue attempts failed and only one Seal (Marcus Lattrell) remained and he was near death, the unimaginable happened. An Afghan villager, Mohammad Gulab, stumbled on Lattrell and saved him, bringing him to his village for protection. This Afghan village follows the ancient Pashtun code of honor called Pashtunwali. The main principles of Pashtunwali are hospitality, protection for all guests, justice against wrong doers, bravery, loyalty to family, righteousness, belief in Allah, courage, and protection of women. This unwritten code of conduct among traditional Pashtun tribes serves as a system of law and governance in parts of Afghanistan. The villager put his life and the life of the entire village at risk by rescuing Lattrell as Al Qaeda forces attacked the village seeking Lattrell.

Ultimately, Lattrell was rescued by US forces and they protected the village from further Al Qaeda attack, but not before a meaningful bond was established among an incredulous Lattrell, Gulab and his son. In a place where hatred, mistrust and killing is an everyday way of life, it was a sharp contrast to see the Pashtunwali principles in action and the villagers’ willingness to sacrifice their lives to uphold their Pashtun code and protect a stranger, a stranger sent to kill. I witnessed the dedication and sacrifice of the Seals committed to their principles and willing to risk their lives and watched it mirrored in the villagers as they followed their Pashtun code.

While elements of the movie and its accuracy may be questioned, from my perspective, the warrior zeal of commitment to principles by the parties involved cannot.

As I struggled with my own crisis, it only existed in my mind. My real world is comfortable. No one is shooting at me and I don’t have to decide if I need to kill someone today. I push myself to my limits to see what I can accomplish because I have a warrior attitude, but my life does not depend on it.

It’s movies like this… no, it’s realities like this, that will do what I cannot. This reality is the sharpest, most direct way for me to get over myself. Shut the fuck up, stop complaining, and go be the cause I want to be. Period. Don’t complain, blame, make excuses, whine or justify. Just do it. And do it now. When I have the chance. Because this is my time. And your time. Refuse to die with the music in you. You were put here for a purpose that only you can fulfill.  Get over yourself and get on with your life. Pull up the big girl panties and do whatever it takes to get it done. Now.

No more crisis.

Find the Warrior in You!

Find the Warrior in You!