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Existential Crisis and the Tragic Nature of Reality

The last two years of global pandemic has really taken it's toll on the mental health of humanity. There are some positive outcomes, like people realizing their worth, setting meaningful boundaries with their workplaces, and understanding more of how they want to spend their time on this earth. But on the other hand, many felt isolated, lost, and unstable.

As I began to settle into the reality that "normal" was changing for the long term, I felt feelings of deep mourning and anxiety swelling up inside me. The grief was crushing, but weirdly mixed with these moments of lightness and clarity. These feelings ebbed and flowed, I tried my best to ride the peaks and valleys of this turbulent time. But I had my moments (many many moments) of feeling utterly crushed by the pointlessness of it all. It felt like a constant tug of war between the beauty, resilience and love of humanity, of our gifts and our growth, and....the rest of it. The ugly, tiring, seemingly useless slog of daily responsibility and expectation to work hard, pay bills, spend money, and do it all again the next day.

One thing that I do to cope with those existential dread type feelings is to focus on the lesson of the moment. The hardest part is identifying it, but once you know what you're working on, it's actually pretty easy to integrate. The problem was, I just wasn't SURE what the lesson was because I kept finding myself in the "what's the point" loop.

Well, I'm happy to share that I did eventually find the lesson, and interestingly enough it was one that I had already learned before, I just needed a refresher course. I'm considering it an ongoing spiritual education. The realization came (as they always do) when I was driving in my car. I had been throwing all these ideas in my head around for months, looking for solutions. Trying to answer the questions: How can I live my best life? When will I be able to rest? When will I be able to sit in joy? Why can't I summon those feelings in myself easily anymore?

In my youth I was a perpetual optimist. I do think I managed to remain mostly grounded and only sometimes lost myself in naivety. Over the years I've had a resistance to nihilism. It always felt dark and I was worried I would find the meaninglessness of life there. It was a fear that if I played with that way of being, I would lose my light, my optimism. THAT! There it was, the lesson! I am being pulled towards nihilism to understand it, to compare and contrast, to immerse myself with the intention of understanding not only myself and my spirit, but also my students and clients and the world. So I got curious. I followed my thoughts without reigning them in, and allowed them to take me down what felt like a long hallway...straight down...into a dark hole. I think my nervous system began trying to protect me from this space because I felt very disassociated. Sort of like an out of body experience, where I became the observer of myself. As I sat in this darkness, looking around me and my life at the things I could love and smile at, things I adored, people and activities and spaces that should fill me with light but they simply hadn't been. That's when I began to understand, the life long lesson. That we are never done. There's no finish line. There's no magical turning point where you get your life diploma and graduate from being human...unless thats what death is. I sat in that for a moment. Death is when the feeling of "doneness" comes. (which I know to be untrue because I know that our spirit continues). As I sat as the observer in this space, I understood a lot about what I feared, flirting with what some might experience as a suicidal ideation. But it was at this point that I found the gift that I was being led to in this journey of nihilism. If being done meant dying, and I didn't want to die, then I needed to stop trying to chase "done". All of the sudden I felt this weight lifting off of me. That I actually DIDN'T have to keep chasing these better versions of myself, waiting for a version of me with more time or energy or money or patience or executive functioning. I chose in that moment to disengage from that fight. The constant uphill slog that I was feeling trapped in. It's never done. Being human isn't done. There is no finish line where I will evolve past my feelings, experiences, loneliness, grief, joy, clarity, messiness, gratitude etc. because all of those things always exist within me and always will. I can choose to engage with the weight of that game, the game of reality. Or I can engage in the game of perception, presence and power. THAT is where my freedom is. Freedom within my own mind and heart and spirit. The freedom of all IS a little bit meaningless...and isn't that kind of lovely?

This journey into nihilism returned my sense of control to me...but in a new way. A control that was born of surrender. Control of my own perception, my own reality and my own capacity for growing light within me. Nihilism carried me out of its' hole, and gently set me back down in my optimism, in a way that I can now plug back into that sense of self that is more authentic to me. I've explored, and now I've come back home.

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