“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
I always imagine this quote by Christian Theologian Frederick Buechner as the first words whispered to a child entering the world.
- Here is the world.
- Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
- Don’t be afraid.
This seems like the closest we might come to an owner’s manual for life.
I wonder how might we relate to our own experience differently if we entered the world expecting both shadow and light, and not personalizing the absence of either?
What if we weren’t constantly scrambling to push our way to the front of the line for all “the good stuff”? If we could accept and welcome the terrible as part of the bargain? Perhaps we would cease to be surprised, or feel victimized, when things don’t go our way.
What might we be capable of if we could remember the words “Don’t be afraid?” Could we stand in the entirety of human experience and let it all happen, without trying to control or manipulate it? Could we seek out all experiences, assigning them equal value as teachers, so that we could truly understand what it is to be human?
The amateur sociologist in me is always reminded of how little training our culture provides in managing disappointment or developing frustration tolerance. Instead, we are taught that we must always win, we must always have “the best”, we must always be surrounded by beauty. It’s as if our welcoming words were:
- Here is the world.
- There is only so much of everything. Do what it takes to get your share.
- Don’t ever fail.
- And… don’t take too many risks, you might get hurt.
However, we fail to see how needed those shadow experiences are for us to develop any character, to establish our values, and engage us in empathy for one another. We forget that failing and making mistakes are the only classroom in which wisdom is taught.
For me, this is the primary role of a mindfulness practice: to help us develop the capacity to face each moment, filled with the unknown, comprised of both beautiful and terrible, and not be afraid.
Taking one breath after the next. Welcoming it all.
Blessings on your journey,