I was recently inspired to pick up the classic book by M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”. I first read this book when I was in my 20’s and at that time felt it was almost bible like. Clearly my highlights and notes were generated from a version of my self who had not really experienced the level of suffering that would come later when THAT version of self could have used the wisdom of Mr. Peck to shine a light in the darkness.
Better late than never, right? Picking this book up again, now in my 50th year, I read page one and swear the book screamed at me “Sit down my friend, today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Well, we both know it didn’t actually say that. What the first page actually says is this:
“Problems and Pain
Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.* It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
* The first of the “Four Noble Truths” which Buddha taught was “Life IS Suffering”.”
But it did scream to me! I swear it did! It said, “Hey, Kathy, this is your life, all of it happening as it was supposed to happen – to give you opportunities to grow. And yes, there will be more problems. Accept it. Surrender. This is LIFE!.”
Mr. Peck wrote this book in 1978. There is no doubt in my mind that right now, in 2017, this Road he speaks of is still the less travelled road. Why is that? Well the fact is, this Road of suffering is a really! hard! road to travel down. A road that requires one to dig deep, empty all the skeletons out of the closet, understand fears and beliefs and stories that we bring into everything we do. Question truths that we have been telling ourselves for years. This suffering does not happen to us, it happens because of us.
There is not one of us human beings that is magically protected from pain and suffering. (If you think you are one, or know one, I would love to hear about it!) Life is more like Adam Levine describes…
“We are all just lost stars trying to light up the dark.”
(A little side note. I have a tiny crush on Mr. Levine ever since I saw the movie “Begin Again”. This version of him singing “Lost Stars” from the soundtrack… just melts me. Check it out. Adam Levine’s Lost Stars
Life is about being lost. Life is about feeling the pain. Living is suffering. It is up to us to find the lessons in all of that muck. What are we to learn so that we can can light up the dark??
“Who are we? Just a speck of dust within the galaxy.”
“Woe is me, if we’re not careful turns into reality.”
Staying stuck in our pain, holding in the woe is me, look at me I’m suffering, is just a recipe for… more suffering. Oh, we can try to ignore these lessons life presents to us. We can use those numbing methods – alcohol, marijuana, exercise, or maybe we eat our feelings, using food as our drug of choice. Addictions are masks that cover our pain. Complaining is a mask. Ignoring is a mask. Blaming is a mask.
Confronting our life struggles evokes fear, grief, sadness, regret, guilt, despair… I could go on, and I’m sure you could add a few adjectives of your own. No doubt walking the Road less travelled is a vulnerable experience. But it is in feeling these feelings, and finding our truths where we will find the meaning in life.
“Turn the page maybe we’ll find a brand new ending where we’re dancing in our tears.”
You can dance in your tears. Get to a point where you actually find some joy in your pain. But you must first walk the Road.
Mr. Scott suggests the key to moving beyond our pain is the concept of discipline, He describes four tools of discipline: delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing. Let’s look at each of these, in his words.
Delaying Gratification “is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”
“We must Accept Responsibility for a problem before we can begin to try to solve it… Admitting this is my problem and it is up to ME to solve it.”
Dedication to Truth. “Truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. Lies are not truth. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world – the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we will generally be lost.”
Balancing. “To be free people we must assume total responsibility for ourselves, but in doing so must possess the capacity to reject responsibility that is not truly ours. To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. It other words, discipline itself must be disciplined.”
This is a lot to think about; however it is all so very simple, it takes time and dedication. Take a deep, vulnerable walk down the Road. Your Road. I believe with every cell in my body that there will be a sea of love at the end of it.
A year ago I went skydiving with Brad and then a second time with Kyle. It was a dark time for me. I was numb. Both times I jumped out of the plane, completely surrendering, giving up to a power bigger than me. Admitting to myself I was not in control (tough one, if you know me!). I have spent the year, with the help and endless support of friends and family, therapists, support groups and a ridiculous amount of self reflection, honing my discipline tools. I have sometimes crawled, sometimes stumbled and at times even walked down the Road less travelled.
Tomorrow I am skydiving with Brad once again. This time I am jumping into my new life. One where I have accepted that this life and whatever it brings, is worth living, fully, feelingly and with complete discipline as well as an understanding that things will be difficult and that really just doesn’t matter!
“We are all just lost stars trying to light up the dark.”
Now. Go get your copy of The Road Less Traveled. Let me know if the second time around is a charm. 🙂