This Too Shall Pass

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Life is a series of peaks and troughs. If it weren’t, if it was a constant, we wouldn’t truly know joy, we wouldn’t truly know sadness, and we wouldn’t know how strong and resilient we are. We need the dark just as much as we need the light, because without each other, they cannot exist. The yin cannot be without the yang.

But for some of us life can seem more trough than peak. This is why we have our practice, so that our spirit – that is, us – doesn’t become too frayed and worn by its human experience.

Through mindfulness we learn to recognise the beauty that surrounds us, through meditation we turn the volume down on the ceaseless chatter in our heads, sometimes just long enough to know what joy is. Through our breathe we find ways to connect to the universe. We learn to chew our food, and feel the ground beneath our feet.

But a practice is not a perfect remedy for the everyday hardships of life. And this is especially true when you are trying to get by in our Western system of jobs, bills and expectations. The unrelenting treadmill of the nine-to-five, Monday to Friday – or whatever work regime you find yourself in – can make you weary. And at times, no amount of deep breathing can make that pile of work on your desk spark joy. No amount of meditation can cure the heartbreak, or the grief, or the melancholy.

Now, drudgery is not a competition. Of course there are always ‘whatabouts’. You may feel burned out by your desk job – that’s nothing. Whatabout your grandfather who worked down the mines for forty years? Whatabout the women in Sudan who have to walk twenty miles a day just to get clean water? Whatabout the binmen who get up at the crack of dawn to break their backs collecting your rubbish?

But this isn’t about their hardships, it’s about yours. And no amount of whatabouts are going to make your lack of purpose or fulfilment any more tolerable.

There’s an oft quoted phrase by Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Keep going, because time marches on relentless, and tomorrow is a new day. And so is the day after that. Keep going because you’ve already survived countless Monday mornings. Keep going because you’ve already survived countless miserable bosses or wearing workloads. You’ve already been through hard days, weeks, months. Keep going because this too shall pass.

If you can’t change your circumstances, if there is really, truly no alternative, then you must battle on. Keep going. Because this is a staring contest, and all you have to do is make sure you don’t blink first. Stay the course, keep steady, and keep working hard, because the time will continue, and its up to you whether you capture it in your sails, or whether you battle against it face on.

Tomorrow it will be different. Or next month. Or next week. Or next year. The time will pass. Quicker than you think. All you need to do is survive this moment. This moment right now. Give it your best effort.

Because this moment is all that counts.