The Hidden Gift Of Discouragement
Discouragement can be defined as “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; a sense of dispiritedness, a loss of morale.” It is the opposite of courage in many ways and can impact our ability to keep on.
It is often described as something to avoid, to overcome and equated with a sort of weakness. In today’s climate where one is supposed to aspire to an attitude of positivity and one is told to constantly work toward remaining in a state of gratitude and happiness; we could feel like we are not being positive enough if we are experiencing a period of discouragement in our lives.
Eastern philosophy can help us to understand that even discouragement has its place and hidden benefits. There can be a valuable lesson in this feeling of powerlessness and lack of purpose as it is possibly an integral part of a natural cycle. And it is there that we can find our inspiration and our sense of renewal.
In living an exterior existence, where everything we do is measured by our outward gain, we have lost touch with just How every living thing grows. Without the process of Dormancy and Germination we cannot expect to Sprout and ultimately Blossom.
We spend so much time working on our Outer Progress we forget that we are Creating it and there are times when our Focus must return to the very source of our Inner Life-where all ideas and creativity begin.
Discouragement can do this for us. Sometimes we have no choice but to surrender to our depression, hopelessness and despair. This idea of an “identity-crisis” is crucial to our own metamorphosis. If we do not occasionally crack open and break through our outer shell how can we eventually fly?
We cannot avoid an eventual crisis as part of our process of growth. All things die and so must we in any given incarnation of ourselves. We must keep moving and we must keep on being Moved. It is the essence of life, of the universe, of nature. This energy is all around us and in us…constant and exquisite and dynamic. We are truly in this dance and sometimes the music changes and sometimes the Music is hard to hear…but the music is always there…the song of the universe is always playing inside our hearts.
Our discouragement can be the signal, the proverbial bell that rings to alert us that our next change is on the way. If we can relate to a universe that is constantly changing and to a Nature that ebbs and flows in this cyclical dance we can understand that we are not simply at some terrible impasse but at a fork in the road and the signs all read: “Welcome to your new adventure!”
The ancient Chinese referred to this cosmic dance as the Tao, or “The Way”. They taught us that the Tao is a dynamic energy force which is the essence of the universe. The Tao is the cosmic system where all things are connected and the world is in a constant flow of cycles and change.
They illustrated this idea in the Symbolism of the T’ai Chi.
The perfection in this symbol of the T’ai Chi is the interconnected relationship of Yin and Yang. It is a rotational symmetry that tells us unequivocally- there is a continuous Cycle of movement in our lives. In the brightest point of (white) Yang there is a seed of Yin (black dot) beginning. In the darkest part of (black) Yin -Yang (white dot) has already begun.
Discouragement then becomes just a part of this cycle and not the end of anything, just a prelude to something else. It is that part of the cycle of Life we must all walk through occasionally to get to those new parts of ourselves.
Joseph Campbell tells a wonderful story about the nature of grass. And how when a lawn mower comes and cuts the grass the grass does not cry out and say, “Oh my God I have been cut how will I ever survive this? How will I ever grow again?” No, the grass just starts to grow again-no big deal. It is inevitable. The grass will grow regardless of how many times it is cut. That is the energy movement and the cycle of life. It is the same for us.
So, discouragement is part of the natural order of our lives. There is no need for shame, or sadness, or fear. Discouragement can be thought of as heralding in a new expression. We have been working in one way for a time and now we must pause and prepare for the next experience. Rest and know that it is simply a time of dormancy of sorts. A time when our forward motion is temporarily stopped so we can conserve our energy but we are still in process. We are moving toward our own germination and getting ready to give birth to the next movement in the orchestration of our lives.
So, let us bless discouragement for the clarity and wisdom it will inevitably provide. In being forced to slow down and reevaluate our direction there is also a powerful opportunity to reevaluate the significance of the initial desires themselves. In the inertia of discouragement we have a chance to pause and reflect. In the fast paced world we live in perhaps discouragement is a gift after all. The gift of temporary inaction until the time we are ready to re-emerge with a keener sense of purpose and a more intimate relationship with our new and beautiful selves.