Walking On Thin Ice

           During the winter, I witnessed what appeared to be a miracle. At first light, I looked out onto the lake in back of our home and saw our swans walking on water! I thought to myself, wow, they must have experienced some sort of epiphany through the night as just yesterday they were paddling around the lake like normal birds.

          When the gray skies brightened a bit, I realized the optical “delusion” of the miracle. Through the frigid night, nature had deposited a thin icy layer on part of the surface of our lake, a layer so smooth that it appeared to be fluid. The swans were actually walking on thin ice. How natural they looked as they waddled across the silvery surface. As I pondered their feat, I acknowledged that I too have been walking on thin ice these past several months. I don’t believe that I have pulled off the balancing act as well as the swans appeared to be doing on this crisp autumn morning.

          As more daylight appeared, I could distinguish the lines of separation between ice and water. The lines of demarcation were S-shaped, six of them to be exact. Some were large, others smaller. I meditated on the S’s. What was the lesson this consonant was trying to teach me?

          The reason there were six S’s was obvious. There are six members in our immediate family. I made the “S” sound over and over again. Their meaning slowly came to me.

          The accumulating weight of responsibilities in life, whether work-related, financial or relational can be a formidable and overwhelming challenge. We may be forever walking on thin ice in a futile attempt to manage. If the burden becomes too heavy, the thin surface fractures and we lose our footing. For some, the burden falls from their backs allowing them to be rescued from the frigid waters. For others, bound tightly to their baggage, the weight drags them under as they sink deeper into the cold darkness below the icy surface.

          Meditating on the S’s, what came to mind was K I S S. It was not the band or the touching of lips. It was just the letters   K - I - S - S. 

          Then it hit me. Years ago my good friend, Don Karas, a colleague at The Heart Group, made an insightful observation. Every year he, Tyler, and I would put together a band for “Docs Who Rock”, a United Way fundraiser. Each year the presentation became more grandiose and extravagant. We performed some crazy antics! When things got too wild, Don would implore me to “K-I -S-S”. No, he wasn’t coming onto me; he was merely suggesting for me to Keep It Simple, Stupid. And he was right. The more complicated our presentation, the less successful it became.

          Hence the lesson of the S’s etched in the thin ice. Keep life simple. Despite the fact that challenges may appear to be very complicated, in truth they are not. By keeping it simple, living one day at a time, tackling one problem at a time, distilling things down to the basics, we can meet those seemingly overwhelming challenges with greater success.

          As Winston Churchill once shared: “Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.”

Rising Above Adversity

Well… wouldn’t it be wonderful to pass through this human experience without any problems. It would nice to avoid sadness, disease, disability and even death. But such is life. None of us is immune. At some point, we all endure these seemingly negative experiences. The question becomes — are they really negative experiences?

When adversity comes our way, how we respond to that difficulty is much more important than what has happened to us. It’s our response that determines who we are to become. If we are to progress, life will likely get more difficult. The more daunting the challenges and the greater the apparent obstacles, the more potential there is for personal growth. An ancient mystical text of Judaism called the Kabbalah tells us “the falls of our life provide us with the energy to propel ourselves to a much higher level.” It’s the falls of our life, the difficulties we face that can be a source of strength that enable us to rise above the adversity.

When faced with a seemingly overwhelming challenge, doubt might enter the mind, replacing confidence. The ensuing suffering can itself be paralyzing. It is easy to become discouraged by the loss of independence, now having to rely on others. It is easy to understand the indignity one might feel mourning the forfeiture of control over life. The greatest fear is of the loss of what we have most relied upon throughout our lives, the thing that for most of us has defined who we are — our body.

No doubt the loneliness created by these fears can have a crippling effect. Part of this loneliness is from the fear of losing yourself. Similar feelings of loss might arise from being separated from those things in life that have provided superficial pleasure, a false sense of identity or self worth. These might be the loss of your job, the loss of a significant other, a precipitous drop in the value of your financial portfolio or the loss of important bodily functions and autonomy.

Regardless of the loss, the response is generally the same — to react out of fear. This has an insidious way of affecting every other aspect of our existence. Ultimately, this can negatively shape our attitude and approach to the life that remains. The door of opportunity then slams shut for us to handle whatever challenges lie before us. In this frame of mind, it becomes extremely difficult to be receptive to the beauty of life that still abounds right alongside the perceived misery. What is left for us to then attract into our lives is the very thing we had hoped to avoid . . . darkness.

Albert Einstein once said: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity”. Many problems aren’t problems at all; they’re just challenges whose solutions have yet to be realized.

This next concept is a difficult one for many to embrace. But here goes: Our body is really not ours anyway; it is on loan from the Universe. Nature is the landlord and our stewardship lasts but a blink of the eye. We must be very cautious not to place too much importance on the rental property.

Inside of us there are really two people; one is the ego. The other is our spiritual self. To access this higher spiritual consciousness, it is necessary to control the ego, putting it in its proper place. We are so much more than our body. This body, your domicile provides you the vehicle with which to accomplish your purpose in life. Remember your body is only temporary, a perceptive figment of your imagination. Your true and authentic Self, your energetic spiritual core is what supersedes everything in the material plane. In the over all scheme of things, what happens to the body is really immaterial. It is, after all, a product of nature; its survival is unimportant. Therefore don’t place too much emphasis on it.

Don’t allow yourself to be encumbered by the limitations imposed by this worldly experience. Always remember, you are a spiritual being having only a temporary human experience, not the other way around.