how to transform suffering to strength
The wound is the place where the light enters you. — Rumi
I saw Arianna Huffington give a talk in San Francisco last weekend. She spoke about the day she found herself lying on her office floor in a pool of her own blood (she had collapsed from overwork and hit her face on her desk).
She described this incident as more than a wake-up call; it was an “entry point into the journey”.
Maybe you know the journey she’s talking about.
I’ve had some entry points of my own, most notably the death of my infant son and the car accident mentioned in my TEDx talk.
An entry point changes everything.
A hero’s journey compels you out into the world. A heroine’s journey (which men can take as well as women) sends you inward and down to face a difficult truth of your soul.
You’ve been wounded, disrupted, pushed to the edge: your old life isn’t working anymore.
So you’re forced to go deep – because where else can you go? — and integrate some as-yet-unclaimed element of yourself, that allows you to rise again and live in a new way, in a new psychological skin.
There’s a word for this: resilience.
In an article in the HBR, Diana Coutu observes
“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”
One way to foster resilience is to vow to yourself that you will use everything that ever happens to you to learn from and grow. This is possible through the twin powers of creativity and compassion.
The creative act is the act of making meaning. It is not the event that determines the quality of our life, but how we choose to interpret the event; meaning isn’t something we find but what we create from the raw material of our lives.
Through our creativity, we can, as Joan Halifax writes, “heal old wounds by reentering them in order to transform our suffering into compassion.”
By creating meaning from our woundedness and sharing that meaning in a way that helps others – that provides insight and guidance – we also find a way to integrate and move forward.
Arianna’s personal journey resulted in a book called THRIVE (it drops in late March). It is about our culture’s desperate need to redefine success in a way that reaches beyond wealth and power to include a “third metric” of wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving. These are the things, say Arianna – and ancient philosophers support her in this – that restore us to ourselves and connect us to our loved ones, our communities, the very pulse of life itself.
It seems to me that you could sum up the third metric in one word: soul.
The heroine’s journey is the soul’s drive toward wholeness. Chances are you’ve had an entry point of your own. What was it?