There was a time when I would regularly visit a Chinese restaurant with a friend, partly because we enjoyed their food, which was delicious, but also because we’d visited Hong Kong together and it was an unspoken way of recreating a shared good memory from the past. We were always given two fortune cookies at the end of our meal and one that I particularly remember and liked said:
"To reach the highest mountains, sometimes we must cross the deepest valleys"
At the time, I had a habit of collecting these fortune cookie sayings, partly because I’m a pushover for a philosophical quote but mostly because they seemed to be largely inspirational, in their own, unique, fortune cookie kind of way. But the thing I most liked about them was how frequently they also incorporated the reality of the harder aspects of life, that can sometimes bring us down so suddenly and debilitatingly to our knees. For all their ‘fortune-cookie-pop-psychology-soundbiteness‘ I could still hear the echo of an ancient and essential truth within them.
And so it is with all things that speak to our hearts and souls, I believe, everything that touches the place of sacred truth that lives within us, whether written or spoken, read, seen or heard. Something inside us is stirred by it and whispers a quiet but unmistakeable “Yes”.
I heard the fortune cookie saying “To navigate your way successfully and positively through Life, you must accept your feelings of both sorrow and joy as an integral part of it because, if you deny this truth and choose to wallow in one, or falsely cling to the other, you will forever be mired in the no-man’s land of ‘half-living’ and ‘half-feeling’ that lies in between. It’s only by recognising the truth of these two opposites, accepting them as part of Life, feeling gratitude for them and facing them bravely, that we keep moving forward and keep learning along the way.”
If we try to artificially sustain one experience or emotional state we put immense psychological and spiritual pressure on ourselves because, in doing this, we fight the very nature of Life itself. To feel Life in all its fullness, and to accept that there’s a purpose in that fullness, having something important and inherent to teach us in and of itself, is the best way to leave ourselves open to hearing what it is that God is trying to say to us. I believe.
Sometimes we’ll hear His message in the experience of the ‘high’ or ‘low’ itself; sometimes in the effort and determination it took to reach the point where we were heading; sometimes by reliving the experience in our telling of it to someone else; and sometimes just in personal reflection and/or prayer. The gift of the message comes in many forms and ways but the important thing is having faith that there is a message, and allowing ourselves the time and space to hear it. More often than not, in my case, it’s been a message about valuing the gift of Life itself, in one form or another, recognising the value of the people within my life, or coming to appreciate the intrinsic value of myself, that lies at its core.
Our mountains can feel higher and something to truly celebrate, when we take the time to reflect on them with feeling, our valleys of darkness can feel less deep, when they help us to appreciate and be grateful for what we had, or what we have. And both can give us the perspective and encouragement to keep on going, when we find the courage to share them with others and so prove to ourselves that we truly are not alone.
This inspiring video illustrates the joy and wisdom that can be found, when we allow ourselves to fully experience both the real and symbolic mountains and valleys that come our way as part of Life. I hope you enjoy it and can take as much from it as I did.