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Illana Berger
Life continually provides opportunities for amazing and extraordinary experiences in your lifetime. Sometimes, however, some of life's experiences can be overwhelming and take us into what might feel like a dark pit or an endless tunnel of darkness. The natural impulse is to reject, deny or attempt to distance oneself from these "troubled waters," but what if these "waters" were exactly what was required for you to actually live the extraordinary life you are seeking?

The experience of being "taken down" is what Ram Das (a spiritual teacher and author) calls "God's grace." We are given these experiences because they are what we "need" in order to awaken to our true work or our destiny.

This descent experience seems to be especially prevalent for women who are between 40 and 60 years old. In the indigenous or tribal spiritual teachings these years (40 to 60) are considered the transition years, the deep seeded transformational years. Often we are given challenges throughout our lives or at different moments or periods of our life, but the years of 40 to 60 are major transitional years for most women.

When I was about 35 years old I began to realise that there was more to life than I had been led to believe. I thought that if what I was experiencing and living was what life was ALL about, then life was pretty shallow. I wanted to know what the meaning of life was. Why had my life taken the path it had? Who were these people (children, partner, parents, friends, etc,) who were in my life and why were they here, with me, now?

Many people ask these questions, but few sincerely seek to discover the answers. The poet, Ranier Marie Rilke said;

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answers."

I read this quote when I was about 35 years old. I have tried to live my life from this place of awe and curiosity and I have counselled others who work with me to do the same. When you are willing to live the questions, really live the questions, then life takes on a sacred and holy quality. The hurry in life eases, and you become softer, more curious, more gracious, generous and much more kind.

I work with women who are in the midst of divorce or separation, women who are living with cancer, women whose children are leaving their home for colleges, and women who have endured the loss of beloved people in their lives. I have worked with women who have been abused sexually, emotionally and physically. I work with women who have been abandoned by their fathers, their mothers and their lovers. I also work with women whose partners think they are wicked and witchy, helpless and feeble, controlling and domineering.

All these experiences these women are having are transformational experiences that John of the Cross, called the "Dark Night of the Soul." It is a transition time, what tribal cultures call "initiation."

Most of us do not know how to navigate this territory, which is why anti-depressants are so frequently prescribed to women at this juncture of life. 11.5% of the women in the US (not institutionalised) are prescribed anti-depressants! That is about 31.7 million women!

As a culture we have intolerance for sadness, for darkness, for confusion and uncertainty. We want happiness, contentment, safety and delight. Yet all the spiritual teachings tell us that this search for happiness and fulfilling our desire is the root of all suffering. The joke is on us because that which we are seeking is who and what we already are.

How do we come to know this? How do we find this truth? No matter what the circumstances of your life, you are already and always the embodiment of joy, contentment safety and delight. The journey of your life is to make this discovery for yourself.

Illana Berger

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