9 Life Lessons That 2019 Taught Me.
Life flows like a river. The water keeps on running, and if you don’t stop to sift through the stones, you won’t find the gold nuggets.
Even though some of the experiences were difficult, and this past year has been the most challenging year of my life, I still feel that taking the time to draw on the lessons is an act of celebration.
Nothing in life is a gift until you have unwrapped it.
In sharing, we come out of our shell and flesh out our humanness, our immortal self, and our interconnectedness. What this year has taught me might differ in the details of your own lessons, yet details are brittle and what remains is a resilient heart throbbing as we enter the core of life.
- Trauma, It Is Not What You Think
I realized I had a bit of a strange relationship with the word trauma. It felt like it had nothing to do with me. I now see that most people have a similar relationship/understanding.
We tend to relate trauma exclusively to a really tragic event. You suffer trauma if you have had a severe car accident, fallen gravely ill, been sexually abused, or experienced some other extreme event along these lines.
Although I have had some quite extreme childhood experiences, I still never really saw myself as belonging to the category of those who needed to heal trauma. I came to see that only because as I approached the end of the year, I found myself suffering from deep exhaustion.
Had I not known how to read the signs, I would probably have just kept on going as usual, at some point hitting a full-blown depression. Thankfully, though, since my mother has been suffering from clinical depression for as long as I have known myself, and since I majored in special education with a focus on mental illness at Tel Aviv University, I was able to see what was going on.
I took a big step back from almost everything and randomly (probably not) picked up Mark Wolynn’s book It Didn’t Start With You.
After nearly two decades of self-growth processes through psychotherapy, meditation, shamanism, breath work, and more, as well as teaching and healing others, it is not lightly that I say that this book has changed my life.
While I was growing up, I couldn’t accept my mother’s limitations and disabilities, despite the fact that she was clearly sick! I always demanded of her to try harder, to make the best out of the situation, to snap out of it. A part of me felt she was not really ill, and was just pretending because she was lazy and uncaring.
On the surface of it, it wouldn’t surprise anyone reading this that I was blindly redirecting all those thoughts and accusations towards myself, weaving them as self-sabotaging patterns into my own make-up! But that’s exactly how trauma works.
The ripples of trauma can seamlessly blend into your personality. Even if you do care for conscious living and self-growth, you might discover that some of its roots go very deep.
If you feel the word trauma turns you off, simply think about it as deep pain seeping down into yourself. Today, I interpret trauma as an unhealed scar on your heart. Much more subtle and much more prevalent than we think.
How to know if you’ve been traumatized? You find yourself coming back to the same event or story in your head over and over again. Borrowing from Freud, it’s an imprint on our consciousness we keep coming back to in an attempt to get it right this time.
Chances are that whatever you replay in your mind and heart over and over again is in fact not the root, but a symptom of a much more significant situation that happened some time earlier on in your life. Dig in.
- Start From the Celebration
Waiting for a bulletproof confirmation that the results and shifts you were looking for are a reality worth being joyful about is a debilitating mindset.
We’re deeply conditioned to work hard, and with that comes an engrained self-view that whoever we are, whatever we do, it’s not enough, yet, to halt the rat-race and celebrate.
Years ago I taught myself to celebrate even the most gentle hints of positive shifts. I passed this on to my students and clients when I recognized in them the same feeling of being torn between the desire to get excited about a beginning of something good and the deep-seated social injunction to restrain oneself from jumping ahead of time.
This year I completely detached results from celebration.
I began my week, my day, my endeavors, with different kinds of celebrations. Not only has it changed my mindset from luck to abundance, it has also taught me the difference between a healthy hope and a destructive kind of hope.
Healthy hope is rooted in possibility. It’s fueled by clear vision of the ways we can chime better with life. The other side of hope, like the double edge of the sword, is fed by fantasies of bending life to match our desired reality.
The act of celebrating strengthens healthy hope which in turn helps us move towards our visions with greater energy and skill.
While gratitude and celebration share a lot, I like the festivities and overtness that celebration brings. It also invites me to share that with others. I found I can feel gratitude for the sunrise, but when I celebrate it, joy rises effortlessly.
Life is cyclical. Starting from celebration you’re never waiting for the end because in a circle there’s no end, simply different viewpoints on the same sphere of life.
Belonging has very little to do with the external reality we live in. Be it your family, community or country, it is merely a reflection of how close you are to who you truly are.
To most, the desire to belong means to feel a part of a group of people that can reaffirm them, give them a sense of guardianship, a shelter from the challenges of life and society, total embracing and acceptance. The geology of belonging is multi-layered; it is a complex constellation of textures.
Belonging is the longing to be.
A friend, who also immigrated from Israel to Switzerland, once asked me if I feel I belong to Zurich. When I replied that I’m not sure that’s the case, she asked me how come it doesn’t bother me. I told her that I’ve found that the old cliché is right: Your home is where your heart is.
You can feel belonging and still question the work you’re doing or the place you live in; you can feel belonging while resenting the connections offered to you by your local community; you can feel belonging even if your immediate surroundings don’t appreciate your talents the way you desire and probably deserve.
You begin to build the geology of belonging when you stop treating it as an on-off button, a yes-no question, and answer the calling to be.
If your heart is not at peace with who you are in your life right now, the serious questions about the meaning of your life can eat you up from inside like a worm eating through the core of a tree. But if you are peaceful about who you are, you already belong to life. That’s unbeatable.
- Surrender Is the Most Beautiful Way Forward
Surrender instead of push.
Surender instead of expecting, waiting, putting yourself on hold.
Surrender instead of dependency. Surrender is a spiritual autonomy.
Surrender instead of getting disappointed, angry, desperate.
Surrender instead of depletion.
Surrender instead of suffering.
Surrender is opening up to the forces of life. If you don’t know how to surrender, start by being honest about the resistances you harbor towards the way your life flows.
- You Will Make It! One Step at a Time
If you’d asked me five years ago if I would ever publish a book, I would have replied with a big flat No. Five years later, however, following a course I gave and the participants’ comments that I should write a book, a seed was planted.
All you need is a seed. Plant it in the earth of your life and go out gardening every day. One step at a time. Fight one demon at a time. Acquire new skills, one at a time. Face the challenges and questions one at a time.
Showing up week after week to writing, a task I thought I’m not capable of, I have finished writing two chapters and found an editor and a publisher I’m thrilled about.
If you have a dream, a deep calling, forget about fancy results, just be persistent and follow one step after the other.
- Grief Is a World, a Life, a Gift
Losing the one who was supposed to become my beautiful child after 14 weeks was the most devastating loss I’ve experienced in my life. What ensued was a turbulent journey of grief and patching up of my heart.
It seems that grief has her own way. She comes in waves. Always with an unannounced entrance. She is mighty, and if you try to bury her she’ll become Inanna, goddess of your underworld, ruling not just your loss but your entire life. But if you give yourself to her, she will show you it’s not just misery and crying, but a whole world, a life of its own, and eventually a powerful source of unleashing love.
You’re never ready for a loss. Whether it’s a loss of a dream you cared about, a person you cared about, a project you cared about, losing means that a part of you is taken beyond the veil and it will leave an empty space filled with memories.
Don’t fill up that vacancy with something else, it’ll never fit. Grief taught me to let that temple of memories and connections grow into a sacred softness within me that made me fuller in new ways.
- Healing Works
Healing asks you to turn towards your pain and perhaps dive into it more strongly than ever. Healing is caring for wounds as much as it’s caring for seeds you didn’t even know were there, didn’t even know prayed for attention and blossoming.
We are our own best healers. If you need to act out your drama, you’re healing. If you need to lose a sense of meaning, you’re healing. If you need to screw up relationships, you’re healing. If you need to break the rules, you’re healing.
You own your way of healing whether you know it or not, whether you care for it or not, whether you celebrate it or not. You are your own healer because no one else knows better than you what you really need to do. The more conscious you are of what is happening, the more your healing journey becomes guided and whole.
The sea keeps splashing on the shore and retreating back into itself. That’s how I like to relate to boundaries. An attentiveness to the contour lines between myself and what I care about and want to nourish, so it doesn’t lose its character and strength.
Your aspirations, needs, wishes will keep on waxing and waning as you move through life and relationships. You’ll be able to enjoy the stable safe shore others can offer you when you embrace the exuberance.
- Belief Is a Strong Strategy
Tucked away in the invisible world, our beliefs can be traced to many stories we’ve inherited or have unknowingly embraced. Stories run like blood in our veins. Some will poison us, some will make us flourish. And the capillaries of a story are beliefs that are meant to keep the story together.
Every story you tell yourself, choices you make, paths you walk on, stem from your beliefs. More than skills and experience, for anything you want to achieve, create or change, your beliefs are your most powerful allies, your most reliable strategy.
Shelly Sharon is a Life Alignment master and a contemporary meditation teacher, who infuses the ancient insight teachings with her own life-long conversation with art, poetry, writing and experiences of a life lived to its fullness. She knows deep in her bones how life looks like beyond feeling not-enough and self-doubt. Her work is dedicated to those who want to turn their pain into power and their mess into a message, living with a heart wide open. She’s been practicing contemplative practices for 20 years, and since 2007 has been offering retreats, workshops and one-on-one Life Alignment meetings worldwide. You can connect with her on her website or Instagram.