It takes both

Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance ~ Osho

What is the goal in the spiritual life? Is it to be happy, to ease or end suffering, to be at all times peaceful and content? I don’t think so. I think that grabbing ahold of any spiritual teaching or religious effort with this goal in mind is misguided. Nirvana isn’t the lack of sadness. Nirvana is this moment, lived completely. Only this one moment. This moment is all we have. To live a life fully, to be engaged and experience what IS, right now, is nirvana. To experience this one precious life, this one precious moment, is to come face to face with sorrow and pain. Not hiding, not numbing, not covering over. Being with the sorrow, sitting with the pain. It is the path of non-resistance.

We all want to be happy. We all want to feel joy. But joy and happiness don’t come alone. Sorrow and pain are their shadow companions. In order to experience life fully, to dive into joy, to dance with happiness, sorrow and pain must also be acknowledged. They also must take a turn on the dance floor. To reject and hide from pain is to lesson your ability to experience joy. To live in this moment, fully engaged and awake, we must welcome the dark as well as the light. Without fear, without reservation. We must be willing to dive into sorrow with the same abandon as we dive into joy. In doing this, we find the treasures hidden and come away changed.

And what are these treasures? I’ll speak of one: a heart that becomes increasingly more open. To dance with sorrow is to learn compassion, for ourselves first and then for others. We learn to walk softly with others, to recognize the pain hiding behind the bluster of those who previously irritated us. Our hearts become more open to the suffering of others as we become slowly aware that they desire the same happiness and struggle with the same brokenness. An open heart is the shining reward for sitting with pain. Open to life, open to others, open to receive all that this precious life pours forth daily, hourly, in each moment.