Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tools for the Journey #16 - What is to give light...

"What is to give light must endure burning."
- Viktor Frankl

Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Viktor Frankel survived Auschwitz to write the quote above, and his quote is a "gift" he gave me, a tool for my journey, though I never met Mr. Frankl.

On this blessed Thanksgiving Day I am mindful of all I have to be thankful for. I am also aware of the tendency to be grateful only for the "good" in our lives yet not the things which might be considered the "bad".

The "good" nourishes and sustains us, and this is a blessing. The "bad" or adversity in our lives can indeed devour us if we let it, but there is another possibility, another choice - it can instead be utilized as fuel to propel us forward...it can burn us and from there we become a source of light.

The roots of our pain may be deep but they are part of what is holding up the tree. Roots grow down, trees grow up so be mindful of directionality and which direction you want to focus your attention on.

We can find ways to alchemize our past pains, injuries, and sorrows into something new and useful. Just like a boat with a repaired hole - the point is it is repaired; it does not change the fact there was a hole but it renders this fact unimportant. The past should not be a place of residency - only a place of reference.

Our family and friends are a harbor for us, they are core to the "good" in our loves yet the "bad" or adversity, which may have caused some of the holes in our vessel, do not have to be an anchor. We alone get to choose how we look back and how we look forward. No one else chooses this for us.

Frankl said:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way."

Thanksgiving is a time to walk inward and seek out and hold up to the light one's blessings and gifts. For me it is both a time of appreciative remembrance and a time of anticipation...I have much to be thankful for and also much yet to come which I anticipate being thankful for in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. I am grateful for the harvest, for the bounty on my table today but I am also thankful for the seeds of things to come.

How do we measure the fullness of our lives? Hopefully we measure by the beautiful moments we have been blessed to experience...and even though human nature may compel us to want more of these "good" experiences (in whatever form) it is my prayer we each spend Thanksgiving Day residing in the place of feeling we have enough...and being thankful not only for the "good" things in our lives but also those things which "burn" us, those things which give us the increased capacity to be a light in the world...for what is to give light must endure burning.

Happy Thanksgiving.

"There are two ways of spreading light - to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." - Unknown

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