We all have our ideas about how life should go. Ideas painted within us as hopes, longings, opinions. Those painted around us as cultural norms, trajectories, “worthwhile” goals. We have ideas in mind about most everything — how our bodies should work, how love should work, how the world should work. Politics. Sleep. Weather. What we want and do not want. Ideas that make things bad or good, yes or no. And while these concepts can offer us valuable guidance about how we might approach life, they can also obscure and conflict with the vast majority of what is actually unfolding — and is bound to unfold — in our moment-to-moment, unpredictable lives and world.
We can be quite unaware of how strongly attached we are to our ideas about life until things do not transpire as we had “in mind.” Because of our sometimes less-than-conscious expectations, assumptions, opinions, and entitlement, our lived experience ends up becoming an affront to our ideas about how things were supposed to go, especially when life hands us something we did not expect and would never have chosen. And so we experience dissonance. Disappointment. Stress. Overwhelm. Devastation. The greater the degree our mental picture of how life should be is in discord with how life actually unfolds, the greater we experience spiritual, psychological, and mental suffering — suffering that ultimately comes from resisting and wanting to control the great fullness of life. The truth. The mystery. A greater fullness than any of us can comprehend or control.
Life is not about “or” — it is about “and.” It is magical and messy. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking. It is delight and disappointment. Grace and grief. Exquisite and excruciating, often at the exact same time.
Life is everything and inherently includes everything. This is the great fullness. Life is not about “or” — it is about “and.” It is magic and messy. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking. It is delight and disappointment. Grace and grief. Exquisite and excruciating, often at the exact same time. And it is paradoxical. The more squarely we embrace death, the more fully alive we can become. The more we let go, the more we often receive. Life is everything. How can we make the space to better see, hold, and work with this wonderfully challenging, complex, and simple truth?
Persian poet Jelaluddin Rumi’s poem The Guest House offers us a powerful, radical instruction show unconditional hospitality for all that arrives. Not just another idea, this approach to life honors the truth of all that is mysterious, all that we cannot anticipate and control, and all that continues to arrive in our lives uninvited but beckoning for attention. Embracing the great fullness of life asks us to attend to everything that is present, everything that shows up unexpectedly, and even everything we might be inclined to push away. We commit to leave nothing out. Greeted with open arms, attended with open eyes, and honored with an open heart, even the most unwanted visitors can find their place of belonging at the table of what is true. Heartbreak. Pain. Disappointment. Despair. Rumi says, “Welcome…them all.”
Life is too big, too mysterious, too much beyond our choosing and our control to compartmentalize.
We cannot attempt to stuff the unwelcome aspects of life — ours or others’ — behind closed doors without an eventual crushing fall. Life is too big, too mysterious, too much beyond our choosing and our control to compartmentalize. Forces far greater than us are at work, and the results — while not necessarily “in our name” — belong to us and our interconnected world nonetheless. Oppression. Degradation. Injustice. Violence. Keeping our eyes wide open to see all that there is to see and accepting what is in our line of sight liberates us to better act and respond with agency. To accept that something is true does not mean that it is acceptable. We can perhaps only respond most effectively once we fully see and take into our hearts what is actually happening. Valuable energy and creativity can be lost in resisting what is actually “so” — energy that might be used in more empowered ways if we practice making room for holding the whole truth. What is happening is happening regardless of what we think about it, and our response is often the only thing over which we have control. The more we are in touch with the actual great fullness of life, the more we can respond with great fullness of heart.
The gifts of full awareness and inclusion are plentiful and await us if we are welcoming and curious. This is how we transform.
There is no truly Grateful Living without room at the table for the great fullness of life to show up and be seated. Acknowledged. Accepted. Heeded. Rumi says, “Be grateful for whatever comes.” The gifts of full awareness and inclusion are plentiful and await us if we are welcoming and curious. This is how we transform. From everything that happens, we can learn, grow, see opportunities, and move toward greater empathy, agency, and possibility for ourselves and others. From everything fully seen and acknowledged, we can seek gratefulness and gain wisdom. As life invariably reminds us, and Rumi is here to say, it is often precisely from that which is most difficult that we are cleared out “…for some new delight.”
Living our lives such that all our experiences belong equally to us wakes us up to greater capacity for love and for living a wholehearted, more actualized and impactful life. Embracing and surrendering to the great fullness of life supports us to live our lives more gratefully. And Grateful Living makes the whole, wild, great fullness of life a beckoning terrain of practice.
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Your beautiful essay reminded me of something a therapist endeavoured to teach me some years ago: the ideas of “and” and paradox. She quoted Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”… “If you can meet with Triumph & Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…”
Thanks Jay – I just read over the Kipling poem and it is indeed compelling in its illustration of non-attachment and peace in the midst of paradox and difficulty. What a great therapist you had!
Thanks Thanit. Indeed, equanimity is such a powerful state of being, and one that requires great practice. It is a very important guiding light in my life…I am grateful for you to name it here.
Great reminder, Kristi, about life being and rather than or–thank you!
Thank you so much Laurie. It is challenging to hold all of life close. A daily practice for sure…so much easier to do with inspiration and in good company.
You continue to be a messenger of The Divine to our moments. It causes great fullness, and is so useful. Thank you.
I am humbled and deeply moved by your praise Mary Agnes. Thank you so much. It would be my prayer to be able to point toward that which is divine in life. May my words continue to serve….
Following a restless night due to the pressures of work your words have washed over me like being on the beach on a warm summers day. So I will endeavour to embrace the ardor and be curious in what I find difficult. Thank you.
Dave – Bless you for your sharing. I often have restless, sleepless nights when I am challenged to hold my thoughts with curiosity, trust, patience, and compassion…May the great fullness hold you – and all of us – in its peace.
How can words and thoughts, familiar Rumi lines sound so refreshingly new and insightful, full of new opportunities to ponder and contemplate only a few at a time! Magical and messy, grace and grief, often at the same time. Grounding in these confusing and sometimes disturbing times. A real gift, Kristi.
Bless you Missy for the gift of your beautiful words and generous reflection. I know that we endeavor to hold the great fullness of life with loving and compassionate hearts. Thank you for your companionship on this journey,
Thank you Kristi for this beautiful piece. Made my day!
Thank you so much Victoria! I am so glad this piece resonated with you. Makes MY day!
Thank you for the wonderful explanation of life and our distorted views filled with “expectations”; most of which are never realized and thus, the disappointment and agony of our psyche. A book written by Scott Peck begins “Life is difficult…” and we can make it even more difficult by not relaxing and accepting what “is”…
Diane – You bless me with your understanding of the message about great fullness. Such gifts await us when we can release expectation and invite appreciation of what is. Thank you for being part of us…
Kristi, this was absolutely wonderful! What an invitation to embrace our shared reality in being human. For me, life is sort of a continuous stream of knowing, forgetting, forgiving and beginning again. And, it is all as it should be from moment to moment.
Thomas! What a wonderful gift to share the knowing and forgetting of being human with you. You are such good company! May we continue to continually ride the currents of ease and hardship with buoyancy and joy, and with each other. Thank you for your presence.
Pure sweetness. Thanks so much, Kristi.
Thank you Miguelie – You are the sweetness through which you experience sweetness. I am grateful for offering resonance for your truth.
Thank you for the beauty and insight you offer us in this article., Krista. It is such a gift for the start of this day.
Linda – I am so glad to be able to share my perspectives and have them serve you.. What a huge blessing. Thank you for bringing joy to my heart.
Thank you for reminding. As Yin and Yang, and as one Budhist monk says there is no white if there is no black, there is no life is there is no death, there is no light if there is no dark.
We have to acknowledge it and embrace it.
Is – You are so right. The paradoxes of life bring energy and deep learning if we make space for them, instead of wanting everything to be one thing or another. May your wisdom bring you sweet peace in the midst of it all.