As a kid, I occasionally overheard my mother talking to herself doing chores around the house. She was a single parent and often came home from a day’s work to an evening of responsibilities. One phrase I remember her using as she opened bills or couldn’t get a stain out of the carpet was, “This too shall pass.”
I came to understand that she was reassuring herself that whatever challenges she faced, no matter how taxing or mundane, would be resolved. I didn’t know that she was quoting the Sufi poets who believed that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.
Today, I thought of my mother and the phrase she uttered when overwhelmed. After several days of rain, I just couldn’t get myself going. I knew I had chores to do this morning before I went to work, but had no energy to accomplish them. So, after a great deal of procrastinating, I dragged myself onto my yoga mat and did a few sun salutations.
In the middle of my routine, stretching my body, breathing deeply and regularly, my mood lifted. And, quite by coincidence, but still remarkable, the sun came out.
In my psychotherapy practice I often counsel people who are afraid of talking about their anger or reliving sad memories. They fear that they will get mired in those “negative” emotions. I tell them, that in my experience, feelings come and go. Sadness, deeply felt, passes, and leaves room for joy. And, happiness too can’t last forever. When we try to hold onto any feelings we set ourselves up for disappointment (and sometimes compulsions and addictions.)
But, good advice is sometimes easier to give to others. So, I’m writing this entry, in the hopes that I can remind myself that no matter what challenges we face (large or small) they will pass and if we remain flexible we will be able to withstand our current experience until the next one arrives.