Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a post that a friend had shared on the Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam. You might have already heard of this story : how a farmer who got lost while hiking in the jungle stumbled across an opening in a limestone cliff. As he approached to explore it, he noticed clouds billowing out of the entrance and upon further discovery it would be known as the world’s largest cave. But what was waiting beyond the dark entrance was something unimagined – it appears that part of the roof of the cave had collapsed and because the light of the sun was able to shine through, an entire ecosystem of jungles and life form emerged. This seems surreal and what seemed like just an entrance into a stone wall turned out to be a door to a whole new world.
This cave is a perfect metaphor for challenging experiences we go through life and how if we allow the light to come in, we can emerge from the darkness into an even more beautiful version of ourselves. Hardships, failures, and painful life experiences whether in childhood or as adults can take us into some pretty dark places in our lives, where we can feel there is no hope of the pain ending or simply feeling stuck in a space of regret and resentment. And even with time we may experience this more intermittently, but to truly heal and experience the light on the other side, here are five daily practices that enable this transformation:
Practice, Practice, Practice. Happiness lies in gratitude, but even that may seem far fetched when our whole world is crumbling down. This is why we have to practice gratitude before it becomes embedded in our daily life. Like any habit, living gratefully takes time, and at first it might even seem like you are merely reciting things that come to mind. Think about the people in your life who you love and who share their love with you, and if nothing, be grateful for even having the slight knowledge of the potential power of gratitude. The more we practice, the more shifts we notice in our emotional and physical wellbeing and it carves us a path to becoming happy and whole again.
First and foremost self love requires acceptance of where you are emotionally and mentally. It is important to acknowledge that where you are is exactly where you are meant to be, and that this experience is an opportunity to transform yourself. Self compassion in this time is crucial, because it takes a great degree of honesty to look at areas we need to heal or improve and then working on it takes time. When we practice self love, we are essentially allowing ourselves to grow into the best version of ourselves. This has infinite potential to transform us and open our eyes to the areas we need to grow in.
Take time to look at areas in your life that can be improved upon. Don’t look at them as faults but instead ask yourself daily “What is this experience trying to teach me?”. One of my favourite teachers, Michael Bernard Beckwith, has a powerful question that we can ask ourselves : “What if this experience were to last forever, what quality would have to emerge for me to have peace of mind?” Would it be strength? Peace? Unconditional love? And then focus your attention on that quality. Again, it’s important to recognize that self growth and healing takes time, but the moment we acknowledge there is an opportunity to learn from these experiences, we open ourselves to activate our healing potential.
The ultimate key to a peaceful mind is forgiveness, but in my experience, gratitude, self love and growth come first. Once they become embedded in our daily living, then we can open ourselves up to forgiveness. This means forgiving others (which is a process in itself) but also equally important forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. One of my favourite lines from A Course in Miracles is “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle.” Forgiveness, like gratitude, is a choice, and the more we engage in this process, the more we free ourselves from the past. And when we relinquish all regrets, grievances and resentments, we are making space for more love and peace within our hearts, and ultimately choosing to be open to a miracle.
Finally, trust that you will move out of this space and that “life will bring you good things” as David Steindl-Rast says. This is the hardest part because all of the above take time and to stay dedicated to the process of healing requires a tremendous amount of trust in the universe. It is inevitable that we will take steps back – after all this process isn’t linear. But if we are consistently willing to move forward, then we can trust that this journey will lead us to a whole new and brighter world.