It may seem that the world has become quite a dark place. I sometimes awaken, read the news, and feel as if a very dark storm cloud has settled over the earth. As it blocks the sun and our collective joy, it rains down a sprinkle of forgetfulness.
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Many seem to have chosen to ignore the voice in their hearts that instinctively knows right from wrong, while others may have forgotten the sun’s existence at all. It is easy to feel hopeless at such times.
Yet as difficult as a time as this may seem, not all is lost.
But how exactly do we survive?
1. Remember Your Uniqueness
The world has always existed as an interplay between the beautiful, rich depth of sensitivities in life, contrasted with dark shadows and bitter twists of decay.
However your existence as ‘you’, in this moment, will never be repeated. You may have heard before that each of us is unique, but I ask you to look further into this than ever before. The way you embrace and experience the world is completely different from that of mine.
Even as we grow and progress through life, our lens will shift and change, allowing us to view and experience life in novel ways that absolutely no one else may be fully aware of.
Your story, your timeline, your very breath is yours and only yours. You have and will always be the most unique version of you to ever exist.
Breathe this in, and remember that even in this moment, you are still incredible, original, and captivating.
And for those moments in which the world seems too dark, please remember that now, especially, is not the time to hide.
2. Shine And Display Yourself
There has never been a better time for dancing, for singing, for writing, for playing, for expressing oneself in the world.
Imagine each of us as vividly colored birds, with shimmering feathers and millions of dazzling colors.
To hide during such times of gray is to pretend we have become gray with it. But we are not the storm, and we are not a shade of gray.
You may have been told you need to limit yourself to what others have told you to be, to live in perpetual fear of the alarming news you hear.
But cages are good for no one, so why choose to live in one?
3. Know What Your ‘Cage’ Looks Like
For a long time tigers have been caged by humanity.
It may have begun as a way to capture their wildness and vibrant energy. Humanity was entranced by its ferocity and grace, and as such wished to own some for themselves.
What they found however was that the longer they caged the tiger, the less a contained the essence of ‘tiger’.
The soul of the tiger we know and love has always been a product of this animal’s interaction with the world.
It has become the symbol we relish only because of its environment; it’s interaction with the forest, the animals, and even the sun as it reflects off its painted stripes.
We often create cages for ourselves in life, believing we only have certain paths or that we have forever missed certain opportunities.
We sit in our imagined cages and watch the world go on without us, all the while hiding and containing the very essence of who we are, or who we could become.
We may even become defensive when others get too close, content with the safety of our cage, never truly experiencing what joys (or trials) life may offer us to help us shine.
But the tiger in a cage is no longer a tiger, and cannot reflect the energy of its nature.
We may become upset as we watch its light diminish. We poke, we prod, we ask the tiger to jump through hoops of flame in desperation, seeking to recapture its inner fire.
We become angry when, in its hurt and despair, the tiger tries to fight back, snarling defensively.
After the public, carefully manicured show, we return the tiger to its cage.
It, therefore, lives out its life as not a tiger, but as a shadow.
We must not let ourselves become shadows.
4. Break Free And Be Raw
We do not belong in cages. The world may seem to place us in one, but we do have access to the keys and may use them.
By claiming our inner spirit, our inner ‘tiger’ if you will, we remind ourselves of our own wild and vibrant nature.
After all, it is not the caged, carefully censored version of ourselves that others truly love – it is the wild laugh, the secret imagination, the endless hidden talents, hobbies, or passions that each of us possesses.
For example, I work as a therapist, and as such our profession is often known one of the most elusive figures to exist.
If you have therapist friends, you may notice they hardly have any social media, or even personal media presence at all.
We are often taught to be blank slates for our clients to project their stories onto, mirrors upon which the client can reflect on themselves, while we sit ever calm, ever mindful, and ever patient.
This is all well and good, however, I must disagree that all clients require a Buddhist monk as a therapist.
I have had others in my profession tell me they are alarmed that I sometimes share about my own life sometimes in my writing, or that I have discussed my journey as a young breast cancer survivor and the emotions that accompanied it.
I hear them, and I appreciate their sentiment, but I do not share their fear that by suddenly appearing as human, all my clients will run for the hills.
In actuality, my ability to be human, honest, and present with my clients has often progressed our work further than the ‘blank mirrored slate’ method ever did.
After all, we are human, and as such we need another ‘human’ in the room.
We need someone to sit with us in our dark or light places, to share our joys or sorrows, to know our pain.
Showing that I, too, have suffered and been through the darkness created an understanding that allowed those around me to move forward in their own healing.
And the best part of this? You definitely do not have to be a therapist to be real and present for yourself and those around you.
You can be raw and embrace your story each and every single day.
Now more than ever, the world needs us to be the real, colorful beings we are. This storm is going to pass.
The sun will return. And when it does, I hope we may all choose to be the tiger embracing the sunshine, having long left behind the cages of self-suppression.
On this day, may we lay fear at our feet, and no longer be afraid for the world to hear us roar.