In our quest for happiness, sometimes we forget that we also need to experience the sadness. This is not to say that we shouldn't practice daily affirmations and positive thinking (those are of the utmost important). However, when sad feelings come knocking at our door or our children go through a rough time, we must remember that these painful times are also of great value - they give us the gift of empathy and understanding for other beings.
A good friend gave me this reading. I am grateful for the reminder to appreciate the glorious and wretched parts of life.
Containing the Paradox by Pema Chödrön
Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, and energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others. We make ourselves a big deal and want life to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.
On the other hand, wretchedness - life’s painful aspect - softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is an important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose - you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all be so depressed and helpless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.
Atisha said, “Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.” Whether it is glorious or wretched, delightful for hateful, be patient. Patience means allowing things to unfold at their own speed rather than jumping in with your habitual repose to either pain or pleasure. The real happiness that underlies both gloriousness and wretchedness often gets short-circuited by our jumping too fast into the same habitual pattern.
Patience is not learned in safety. It is not learned when everything is harmonious and going well. When everything is smooth sailing, who needs patience? if you stay in your room with the door locked and the curtain drawn, everything may seem harmonious, but the minute anything doesn’t go your way, you blow up. There is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out. Patience implies willingness to be alive rather than seek harmony.