The lowest point…and the greatest change

avatar greatest change

“When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”

~ Avatar Aang, The Legend of Korra

Many insist that people can not fundamentally change. Of course they can…we all can.

It’s simple. Take a dark room, and then turn on the light. Have the room or its contents changed? Yes they have. All is now visible and sparkles. All can be seen, used and enjoyed.

Obviously the room and the objects in it retain their original shapes and proportions. Wood is wood, cement is cement, glass is glass. But turning on the light changes them, gives them depth, color…and therefore makes ALL the difference. Fundamentally.

Sometimes, and in every life one would hope, the light is turned on. I’ve seen broken spirits come alive over a few days…people’s facial expressions and whole postures were completely different…they glowed, they looked infinitely younger. It was shocking, and I wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not witnessed it in person during a 5 day seminar.

But do we really need to hit our lowest point to allow and experience the greatest change, for that light to turn on inside us..for the first time or again? And if that is so, how do we know when we’ve reached that point? How can we make it happen?

It’s no mystery that we all resist change because we are afraid…of ourselves, of being hurt, of not being loved if anyone truly sees our weaknesses, of losing control. We are not the best of friends with uncertainty. And sometimes the resistance we put up is quite grand, even though some honestly try to minimize it.

The way to the lowest point, beyond all the resistance, is not easy. We start when our hopes and dreams are shattered, when our hearts are not broken but outright pulverized, when our efforts go to waste, when all that we trust, believe and know is taken from us. In this space of pain and loss we meet the irony of a freedom we would not know otherwise. It seems to us we have nothing more to lose…and that is as liberating as it is tragic.

So, we imagine this is the lowest point. And yet the light doesn’t turn on. And this is where we get rather desperate. How can this not be the lowest point? We should know better than believe the teachings of so many, and especially those of some character in a friggin cartoon!

The problem is we didn’t lose quite everything yet. Think about it…we still have the pride of the martyr, the resentment and self-pity of the victim, the anger of the wronged, the sadness of the broken. We still have questions and hope that somehow our terrible experiences have earned us some distinction…that our survival and dignity through such an ordeal will be celebrated and rewarded. We still build walls within ourselves out of all the bits of our suffering and we stand awaiting redemption.

But of course there is no reward or redemption. The temple is empty and silent.

Exhausted and defeated, furious and weak, feeling like refugees in our own lives, we pause. There are no answers anywhere and no guidance. Nothing we do or reach for helps. It seems as if the universe has purposefully turned its back to us. But why? Haven’t we been punished enough? What else can be taken? What deeper pain can be felt?

And then suddenly, our own desperate cry comes back as an echo. We are completely alone, so we turn inward, and we see within ourselves the walls of pride, resentment, self-pity, anger, sadness and hope. We understand there can be no walls. And we can’t bear to break them, but we know we must, and so we do. We take them apart piece by piece, and lay them on the ground.

Finally, there are no more questions and no more prayers. Finally, without anything left to break or trade with, in silence and acceptance of our own shadows, we kneel and we surrender.

And that is when we reach our lowest point…and then the light simply turns on.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. i always felt like zuko


  2. Joanna L. says:

    it would seem many of us, if not all, share those same struggles and hopefully a journey with a similar ending/beginning 🙂


  3. I’ve experienced it…it’s very humbling and in a way euphoric. The ‘lowest point’ is different for everyone, and even for one individual in different circumstances. Sometimes it is the most wonderful thing that can happen, but sometimes it just plain sucks.


    1. Joanna L. says:

      Humbling is right Kristy…overwhelmingly so.


  4. tokaichung says:

    amazing, I loved this article. I like the part where our lowest point also gives us the greatest freedom.


    1. Joanna L. says:

      thank you, glad you enjoyed it. 🙂


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