How do we use the forces of a difficult time to help us grow? There are many ways, but the first way, the gateway, is to know that we are not alone in these endeavors. One of the greatest enigmas of human behavior is the way we isolate ourselves from each other. In our misguided perception of separation we assume that others are not sharing a similar experience of life. We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings. And so we try to appear as happy and consistent as we think others are, and we feel shame when we stumble and fall. When difficulties come our way, we don't readily seek out help and compassion because we think others might not understand, or they would judge us harshly, or take advantage of our weakness. And so we hide out, and we miss out.
We read novels and go to movies and follow the lives of celebrities in order to imbibe a kind of full-out living we believe is out of our reach, or too risky, or just an illusion. We become voyeurs of the kind of experiences that our own souls are longing to have. Here's the oddest thing about living life as a spectator sport: While the tales in books and movies and People magazine may be created with smoke and mirrors, our own lives don't have to be. We have the real opportunity to live fully, with passion and meaning and profound satisfaction. Within us—burning brighter than any movie star—is our own star, our North Star, our soul. It is our birthright to uncover the soul—to remove the layers of fear or shame or apathy or cynicism that conceal it. A good place to start, and a place we come back to over and over again, is what Rumi calls the Open Secret.
Persian poet Jelalluddin Rumi on the open secret