Resilience & The Inner Flame

I am regularly encountered by a mother whose obsessive worry is that her child won't be continually happy throughout his or her lifetime. Although of course this is a wonderful wish, I immediately wonder what kind of childhood she experienced. I ask the mother if it is realistic to think that someone's entire life might be free from uncomfortable obstacles and challenges.

If the child is a teen of working age, I often discover that his or her every material request is being fulfilled by the parent on demand, that the teen isn't even required to help around the house or yard and that he or she doesn't feel the motivation to work at a part-time job. Probably due to her own childhood, the parent remains highly reluctant to ask the teen to contribute to the household chores; she would rather do them all herself along with working a 10-hour day. (Although it's true that some teens are over-scheduled or overwhelmed with schoolwork, activities or even challenged with disability, surely many could help around the house if they are not working.)

My left brain wants to thank God that I worked regularly since age 13 and had assigned household chores much earlier than that, that my early life was not made so cushy by my family.

My early and later life definitely had its extreme challenges. I used to identify as "a survivor," but I see that all along I was really never at ease with that identity; instead, I knew that I was perpetually on the defensive. When I worked and earned a paycheck though, I felt more in control of certain parts of my life. I was forced to learn to deal with customers, patients and clients - some with ridiculous demands and incorrect projections that still show up to this day. I conjured confidence and accountability. Plus, I found out I was pretty good at a few practical things.

And because of my childhood and early working experiences, I grew resilient. I learned to think fast, to be one step ahead - to be vigilant and instinctually feel and see the signs. I became emotionally intelligent.

Sometimes living in a war zone has its benefits - it teaches dead-on intuition, meaning I found that one lift of a right eyebrow, one slight bend of the other's head in an upward direction signaled something - I discovered that if I was asleep at the wheel and missed those signs then somehow it made me vulnerable.

As I got older, I watched as my defensive resilience turned hard, brittle and cynical. I used to pride myself as someone who would never cry; in fact, nobody could make me - even the meanest bitch or SOB. As I toughened up, I realized I was also being hard on everyone else around me. My tolerance lessened. My patience reduced to zero.

And then something Big happened in my mid 30's. When I became enlightened, my impenetrable, defensive walls simply started to crumble. The resilient barrier I had built around my heart shattered. No longer was it possible to not feel something. I found I was unable to push my emotions face down in the dirt.

Suddenly, there was no fence, no wall to hide behind. It became impossible to squelch tears of pain when someone hurt my feelings. All of it, all of the pain from my former life surfaced like a sweeping wave to finally cause its oppressive weight before it washed away, and in the receding tide I felt buoyantly alive, not drowned and deadened.

I rejected the identity of "survivor" in favor of someone who simply wanted to live. Because to me, living means being liberated and open, free of walls of any form of separation, and yes, even vulnerable and soft. Although I still hold people accountable, I watch any tendency of hardness that may arise in my heart.

The flip side is, overnight, my heart became irreversibly exposed, displayed in bold colors on my sleeve like an emblem. In cases when someone unconsciously hurt me I found forgiveness, but an awareness arose in which I felt unwilling to re-visit the past I long ago abandoned....the same one which demanded that I wall off my heart.

Here's the thing - I don't want to merely survive - I want to Live. And sometimes living means you walk away from unconsciousness tendencies that want to disunite you from your heart. You leave people, places, behaviors and tendencies that cripple your mind with drama and mistrust that wants to re-form fences.

In Sia's video depicting her song "Alive" that she co-wrote with Adele and Tobias Jesso, she bellows her sentiment from the depth of her lungs. She sings,

I was born in a thunderstorm I grew up overnight I played alone I played on my own I survived - Hey I wanted everything I never had Like the love that comes with light I wore envy and I hated that But I survived

I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go Where the wind don't change And nothing in the ground can ever grow No hope, just lies And you're taught to cry in your pillow But I survived

I'm still breathing, I'm still breathing I'm alive

I found solace in the strangest place Way in the back of my mind I saw my life in a stranger's face And it was mine

I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go Where the wind don't change And nothing in the ground can ever grow No hope, just lies And you're taught to cry in your pillow But I survived

I'm still breathing, I'm still breathing I'm alive

You took it all, but I'm still breathing... I had made every single mistake That you could ever possibly make I took and I took and I took what you gave But you never noticed that I was in pain I knew what I wanted, I went in and got it Did all the things that you said that I wouldn't I told you that I would never be forgotten And all in spite of you

And I'm still breathing, I'm still breathing (You took it all, but I'm still breathing) I'm alive...

You see in Sia's video the approximate age in which trauma or neglect took place - the most impressionable childhood period which greatly impacts the humans psyche, the time when one's life is in the hands of others. Yet this young girl is not so tender and powerless.

Her hair is black/white - she is dealing in absolutes. Yes or No. No gray areas - nothing in between. It is Live or Die. This young warrior has been trained over a number of years to balance her masculine power against her feminine instinct in order that she defend and protect herself. Her mouth opens in cries but she remains unheard in the video, expressed in the words, "you never noticed that I was in pain."

Somehow, however, her pain turns into power.

Her kata is deliberate, concentrated and accomplished. She is prepared, ready for any encroach. She remains alert, deadly serious, determined, disciplined, unwavering, her naiveté and vulnerability vanquished, her feelings inverted to focus her concentration.

Clearly, if some of us could go back in time, we'd be more in control - we'd go in armed with our own mature wits, our earned wisdom, foresight, power and strength.

We would not let anyone deliberately harm us; we would NOT put up with it.

We would not allow anyone to "take it all" - extinguish our power and annihilate the very thing inside of us that wants to remain childlike, tender, unguarded and deep feeling.

We would refuse to allow anybody to poison the well of creativity we were born with.

We would not let anyone make us doubt our obvious gifts or question our natural ability to bring our passions to the surface of our lives.

We would not give in to anyone who threatens to douse our light.

Although the song explains that her life could have lead to a painful place, she survived. And the key to that survival? "I knew what I wanted, I went in and got it."

Notice she went "in" and got it. Not outward in the material world, but rather intellectually inward to find her voice, retrieve it and translate its brilliance. "I found solace in the strangest place way in the back of my mind...I saw my life in a stranger's face and it was mine." And in that quest she finds out who she really is.

It seems her early hardship served as a platform to ignite her power and prove the perpetrator wrong. Her resilience emerged as she discovered that she would not let anyone kill her spirit.

What part does Karma play in early life trauma or neglect? Does pain and suffering need to be a vehicle? Without it, would our gifts emerge on their own?

If everything was so comfortable throughout one's entire life, would personal depth be offered or gained?

Do not some of the most genius works of art somehow arise from a troubled life, one in which redemption, proof of life, and creative fire must be produced for all to witness?

I happen to think that despite being made comfortable in early and later life, despite being loved and feeling safe, that one can still gain depth and awaken. But I also see that so much comfort can distract from spiritual growth. It is the wound that often causes the healing, not the prevention that protects from injury.

I looked up at the last full moon and said,

"Spirit of the Moon...I get it.

I understand that extreme circumstances draws our attention to what is karmically necessary to see. But we all don't need the extreme to learn.

We can find value in the subtle waters if we only seek that level.

Would you cast your light and enlighten us to every dimension of the soul that holds us back from our knowingness - illuminate each nuance of what is hidden from our awareness?"

Black or White? Yes or No?

Yes, remain vulnerable and open, for that is strength. But be wise in this endeavor.

Yes, let your feelings flow from your heart rather than keep them bottled up inside. See what kind of creative endeavor may come as a result. Let your voice sing!

No, don't "wear" the emblem of envy and hate. Let your forgiveness lift you above these conditions.

No, don't take it - don't accept anything that will kill your spirit and close down your heart.

Don't confuse resilience with hard-heartedness.

Don't confuse lack of resilience with weakness.

If you feel less resilient, it could just mean your heart is open very wide, meaning you intensely feel the effects of suffering. When your heart is exposed, it means you are strong enough to handle anything that may temporarily wound it. It's a tricky prospect to keep the heart open and have that be a key to your resilience.

Go inward and find your inner strength. Be balanced in your belief that your masculine and feminine sides offer particular kinds of strengths.

Don't undermine your own power with false beliefs carried from your childhood. You are an adult now - nobody can take your power unless you give it away. We cannot change the past, we can only learn from it. Don't re-enact your pain. Don't let your inner flame die out.

Instead, fan the fire. Keep breathing. And Live. Live.


Paula Dianne Upton's mystical book of teaching, Keys to Awaken the Soul is available on Amazon and Createspace.


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