In the horror film ‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ there is a scene where John Leguizamo’s character Paul is led into a tunnel. As he follows to the end of the tunnel, he finds himself facing a dead-end. He turns around and sees the light furthest to him black out. Then the next furthest light dims, and the next…. What struck me most was not the sensations the producers of the movie must have wanted to evoke in the audience, ie. to feel Paul’s increasing terror as darkness inches closer and closer. Rather, it was how the remaining light becomes increasingly brighter as the light dims one by one.
It reminded me of how our missed opportunities in life can highlight what we’re really meant to do from a spiritual viewpoint. And Paul’s increasing fear can be likened to how we might feel as we get closer to our true passion.
Sometimes, the thing we’re most passionate about, the thing that holds most meaning to us, is not obvious to us right from the start. Initially, it may even appear as something we hate, have an aversion to, or stubbornly resist. So much so that we won’t naturally be looking at the right places when we’re searching for the thing that gives us purpose in life. We may spend many years pursuing in other directions, the fulfilment of a sense of purpose still eluding us.
Imagine a greater intelligence is watching over your soul’s progress on the physical plane. It sees you going after one false dream after another in pursuit of finding your way home to doing the thing that makes you feel like *you* in a deeper sense. Maybe it’s been providing signs to guide you to the right place but you ignored or missed them. So it decides to intervene by dimming the lights out of the things that take you away from your true calling.
After the first light is dimmed, you may become aware of your true calling. If not, another light is dimmed. This can go on for a while and can explain why we sometimes find ourselves facing one ‘failure’ after another – when it seems that whatever we pursue turns out to be a failure. We may even start to suspect we are cursed by a spell of bad luck.
Being in the middle of a series of failures can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. It seems to test our resolve and how much resources we can pull out of us. If you’re in one of these challenging times, it may help to shift your thinking from one where the world is out to get you or God is punishing you, to one where you are being divinely nudged towards your special, beautiful place.
That job you badly want, the relationship you’re sacrificing so much to salvage, the business you just can’t give up, the contract that means the life to you, etc. Most of us have experienced losing one of these things which we’ve invested so much of our energy into. It seemed so unfair that they were taken away from us.
Some of us will even focus on the unfairness of it forever, and this is what stops us from healing from the pain and discovering something greater. That childish stubborness to hold on to what we didn’t get will kill off any chance of us finding happiness again. If you focus on it as a missed opportunity, you can turn it into a life-long regret. What it means is that you will continue to invest mental and emotional energy to your loss, keeping your pain around it alive and dilluting your success in all other areas of your life.
The moment you let go of your sense of unfairness around it, you stop giving it energy. You are effectively taking back your power from it. When you turn your perspective of it around and see it as a gift rather than a missed opportunity, you start to heal from all those feelings of loss and regret. This healing will spread across to every part of your life and you’ll notice how much more opened you are to new opportunities for success.
Thus, healing comes from having an openness to consider how that loss might be a gift. As you take this step, you can become clearer about what’s really important to you. In time, you can appreciate how that experience had led you closer to your heart’s desire, what your soul is yearning. But without taking the step, you’re simply stuck in the misery generated by continuing to focus on what didn’t happen for you the way you wanted it to.
It is my belief that the Universe will support you in fulfilling your true calling, even if the road to it may be littered with obstacles. Those obstacles may serve to sharpen your focus, intent and vision of your true calling.
Failure can lead you closer to the thing you truly want, deep down, on a soul level. When all other options are being taken away, you are forced to move to the one thing that stands out. Sometimes, it presents itself as a light-bulb moment, when it suddenly becomes obvious. But sometimes, it seems as though we’re left with a lesser choice, and it’s not until we’ve moved into that option that we discover what a gift it really is.
Because it is not an obvious choice, we would not be moving towards it if other options had not been removed from the picture. Like Paul in the tunnel, we’re pushed to the place where there’s nowhere for us to run, no more room for excuses. We’re forced to turn to the only option available in front of us. That’s why it has to come from that direction sometimes – we are scared of it and won’t choose it if it was one among other options available.
Why are we scared of the thing we’re meant to do, if it’s good for our soul? Not because it’s bad for us but because it’s good for us in ways we’ve never known good to be. The newness of goodness – our capacity to be bigger, more expansive – is what scares us. It’s still an unknown even if it’s good for us.
The wall at the end of the tunnel is not a dead-end. If your resources are dwindling, it can be terrifying. But it also forces you to look in places you’ve never looked or thought to look before. One of these places is where you’re being divinely guided to go – a door which when opened will allow you to meet a stronger aspect of you. It may not be the easiest place to visit since we tend to avoid parts of ourselves, but our soul knows it is where we need to go to find true freedom.
If you’re suffering from a series of failures, adopting these attitudes and practices will ensure you’re moving in the direction you are being nudged towards.
“This is a good thing.”
Allow yourself to consider it may be a good thing. If you’re struggling with the anger, resentment, bitterness, disappointment, worry and anxiety from not getting what you want or losing something you had, changing your perception of it can shift you to a more balanced mental-emotional space. Often, we generate even more of these difficult feelings by continuing to focus on the unfairness of it. The sooner you let go of your sense of injustice, the sooner you’ll see where the light really shines.
Be grateful for this gift.
The failures you’re experiencing may serve to be a kind of ‘process of elimination’ to help highlight what you’re meant to pursue. Changing your attitude to being grateful will enable you to spot the star platform of your life quicker.
Being grateful also means giving attention to what you’re being shown. Sometimes, we simply refuse to give energy to anything else, even if we recognise that the loss is a good thing. It could be that we’re still recovering from the effects of the loss and this can be a valid reason to not pursue something else for a while. But it could also be fear-based: we might be afraid of being disappointed again should our next project become another failure. If so, know that it is okay to invest cautiously this time. Proceeding calmly, without drama or desperation, will ensure a well-balanced outcome whichever way it goes.
Let go of old beliefs.
Take some time to get clear about what you’re saying to yourself about your losses. You may find statements like these in your head:
“He’s so out of integrity!”
“She’s going to pay back for this.”
“How can he do this to me!”
“It’s all my fault! I should’ve said yes right away!”
“Oh no, what am I going to do now?”
“Can’t believe I’m being reduced to this!”
“There’ll never be another opportunity like that…”
“Damn, I was so close….”
If you look closely, you’ll find that these statements are supported by the beliefs you hold about people and the world. For example, “He’s so out of integrity!” may be supported by a belief that everyone should act in integrity at all times. I’m sure you can see how a belief like this can be a source of stress – there will always be people who won’t act in integrity and it’s not always within your control. If you insist that people should always be in integrity, then you’re just setting yourself up to feel upset. A healthier belief might be, “I prefer people to act in integrity.” Here, you allow the space for people to act contrary to what you’d like them to, and you benefit from this increased flexibility.
Look for the lesson.
The force that is supporting you to respond to your soul’s yearning will continue to dim the lights until you get the message. But you can do your part by opening your senses to what it’s trying to show you. Every failure contains a piece of wisdom that can point you to where you need to go. It’s your job to look for it.
Start by seeing it as a gift, and then ask yourself how you can do the next thing differently. If you keep doing the same thing, in the same way, you’re not getting your message yet. Listen with your whole body as you tune into this question. Your bodily signals, emotional cues, perceptive skills and intuition will combine to give you an overall gut feeling to steer you in the right direction.
Sometimes, the failures were needed to teach you certain values or to enable you to develop certain qualities like humility, generosity, forgiveness and compassion. Ironically, the quickest way to learn these qualities is through experiencing failure and loss. In the depth of misery, it’s easy to forget to look at how it can make us stronger or a better person. But it’s precisely what every failure has the potential to do, if we choose to see it.
Relax into it.
Stop resisting the sensations arising from your experience of failure or loss. Acknowledge that they are just a form of energy wanting to pass through your body as part of the process of constant growth. Most of the discomforts we feel is due to our resistance; when we stop resisting, we allow the energy to move through and out of us. We move from being constricted to being expansive. It requires us to relax into the whole sensation of it – to be opened to the feelings as tightness unravels itself inside us – and staying with it long enough for us to move into the expansive stage.
After writing this article, I decided to revisit the scene of Paul in the tunnel. This time, I paused after every dimming of light. At every pause, I imagined that Paul, given the time to let it sink in, would look around him and marvel at how much brighter it’s grown around him. What might he have noticed instead of the fear?
What might you notice? What’s been illuminated for you?