Original publish date April 2018
When searching for happiness, or “the Light”, what are we really searching for? Think of a lighthouse. Picture it on a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I picture a thin, round structure, standing tall. It is white with a red stripe spiraling around from its base to the top. I see a black top. I look around and see very little other than the lighthouse, standing tall and strong, alone. Alone where the water meets the land. This beautiful structure is designed to keep people safe and guide them ashore. Its only purpose is to stand tall and stay put. It never leaves or changes, as the safety of travelers is dependent on trusting that the light will be there when needed.
Now imagine the same lighthouse on the calm evening of a full moon. The moon illuminates the sky, leaving a reflection on the calm waters. The light of the house shines as far as the eye can see, also leaving a magical reflection on the water. Only this reflection looks like a path, a path from the waters to the shores. With the light of the moon, and the calmness of the water, it’s obvious that that light guides us to safety. It’s easy to trust as we can so easily see.
But what if you cannot see the light? The calm is beautiful; however, it may
not always be. Imagine the sailors crossing the ocean on the darkest of nights. The moon light is absent and the storm clouds are thick. The air is heavy as the fog rolls in. The light in the distance becomes harder to see. They are on course as the thunder starts to rumble and the white caps of the waves start crashing against their boat. They are on course for the light as the pellets of rain start splatting around them. The rain is thick, cold and blinding at times as it blows, stinging as it explodes on their faces. This blinding causes them to lose balance and makes it difficult to see. The storm is treacherous and harsh. The fear sets in as they can no longer see the light. This is where you find your true self. This is where you make the most difficult decisions. The decision to trust the course you set and that the light is there…or the choice to give up and surrender to the fear, allowing it to swallow you.
Each and every one of us are the sailor. Life is our body of water as we set sail. We journey to and through the unknown. This is how we discover, learn, and grow. As a child, we listen to what we are told and learn from those who raise us. We trust as they guide us. We are shaped by our individual experiences in our home, within our family, educational system, community, and so on. Each experience is interpreted differently depending on how the lesson was presented and understood in that moment. We do not start out with enough wisdom or knowledge to process the experience fully, therefore we rely on outside sources to help us interpret our feelings, thus forming our belief systems.
Each of us also has the potential to be a lighthouse. There are many lighthouses in our lives. The questions we have to ask ourselves are:
“Do I trust the lighthouse I am choosing to follow?”
“Is that lighthouse shining with authenticity and integrity?”
“Where did they get their light (i.e. knowledge)?”
“Am I the lighthouse for others?”
“Am I shining with authenticity and integrity?”
“Where did I get the beliefs that I have and have allowed them to rule my life?”
When I started questioning my lighthouses and myself, what I found was very disturbing. I started down a path that took me very deep into the darkness and then brought me to see the light.
What I learned was that darkness is only an absence of light; therefore, we must travel through the unknown to blaze space for the light to shine. True depth has to include both, for there cannot be light without darkness. We cannot experience or comprehend the greatest joy with nothing to compare it to. How would we know we are abundant if we have not experienced deprivation? How would we comprehend true love if we have not experienced hate? How could we possibly understand trust if you have not experienced manipulation? You get the point. We must experience both to understand each.
Experience is meant to teach us, not define us. The human race is the only species that blames, shames, and punishes itself for the same experience over and over. You do not see animals and plants beating themselves up. If something isn’t working for them, they change, they adapt, they evolve. Humans are the only species that believes they know. Know what? Exactly!
The only thing I know for sure is the more I learn, the less I know. The more open I can be to the unknown, the more I learn. Getting to this place of openness was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Why? Because the only path to clarity was through my own darkness. I had to face my Ego, my beliefs, my behavior, my attitude, my perceived identity. I had to explore what I thought defined me. I had to accept my ugliness. I had to learn to love and nourish that part of myself that I did not wish to acknowledge. Some of these parts include blame, shame, guilt, manipulation, rage, and so many others I have been able to identify. I had to take responsibility for my happiness, my well-being, my attitude, my health, my life. I AM my responsibility.
How I learned to do this was by owning my thoughts, actions, and attitude. Basically, everything I did and said, Period. The words that came out of my mouth went from “You said”, “You did”, “You…” to “You’re right, I did.” “Yes, I did that.”, “Please forgive me, I did hurt you.” I went from projecting and shifting blame to fully owning my behavior. If I screwed up, I admitted it. I took actions to correct my mistake. I moved through the fear of how the person would react or how angry they would be at me. Where I used to try and shift my mistake into somehow being someone else’s fault, I now replaced that with ownership. I showed up and owned my actions. What I found was that my relationships all improved. When I chose to show up and take responsibility, people were more forgiving. They still got angry, however they released the anger much sooner. What I learned was that the mistake is not what people held onto, it was my unwillingness to take responsibility for my actions. If I created a painful experience for someone, it was important to recognize my part and own it. The more I owned my actions, the more trust I was given. I quickly learned that humility, integrity, and honesty create much healthier relationships. The more I practiced moving through the fear, the easier it got. I also noticed the feelings that used to haunt me; shame, blame, anxiety, and guilt started to vanish. I noticed a difference in the way I felt fear. I noticed a difference in everything.
Fear and anxiety now take on an entirely new role in my life. They are there to let me know when I may be out of integrity. They are there to teach me. They are guides that I need to really look at the situation deeper. They are a gift.
So, in closing I will leave you with this; each experience is just that, an experience. They are not here to define us, but to teach us. If you enjoyed the experience, do more of what lead you to that experience. If you did not enjoy the experience, do less of what created that experience. The golden nugget is not to punish yourself, instead to learn. Step outside of the emotion and into the opportunity to discover yourself. That is the true gift.
Please comment and share. Please feel free to ask me questions. If any part of my journey can help others, I am open to exploring and answering anything. I appreciate your feedback.