The Value in the Valley: A Black Woman's Guide through Life's Dilemmasby Iyanla Vanzant
Is it the job you hate but need in order to pay the rent? Is it that relationship that you gave your all to only to end up with a broken heart...again? Perhaps it's your children, a family member, or a life-long friend doing you in, dragging you down, pushing you to the brink. If you are an honorary member of the Black Woman's Suffering Society, you have probably been… See more details below
Is it the job you hate but need in order to pay the rent? Is it that relationship that you gave your all to only to end up with a broken heart...again? Perhaps it's your children, a family member, or a life-long friend doing you in, dragging you down, pushing you to the brink. If you are an honorary member of the Black Woman's Suffering Society, you have probably been told that it's all your fault. Or that struggling and suffering is your lot in life. Iyanla Vanzant says, No! Life is an Act of Faith and suffering is optional! Those everyday challenges, obstacles, and dilemmas are what Iyanla calls "valleys." As bad as they may seem, there is a purpose or, as Iyanla says, "There is so much value in the valley."
If you've ever been disappointed, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, or just plain old scared to let go, then you've been or may still be in a valley. Iyanla knows -- she's been there and on a bad day she's still there, but now she shares the way out with you.
Ruby Dee The Value in the Valley takes a great many of the neglected and unexplored areas of our minds and lives and brings them, through racism, sexism, and the challenges of just living, into sharper focus. How to turn doubt to faith, despair to hope, confusion to clarity, and make sure that healthy seeds of consciousness, planted in nurturing Black soil, can grow toward the sunlight and burst forth in glorious flower.
- Simon & Schuster
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- 6.08(w) x 8.82(h) x 1.04(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Anatomy of the Valley
It was not unusual for the telephone to ring at eight-thirty in the morning. And it was only slightly unusual for her to be calling him there. Although she worked for him, it was evident by her tone of voice that this call was about something more than business. Two hours into their conversation, she wanted to speak to Ann. The moment the conversation began, Ann knew she was headed for a valley. She could not, however, figure out which one. By the time all three of them were on the telephone, it was clear: Ann was being cut up into tiny little pieces. Those pieces were being strewn across all the valleys at once.
"There is value in the valley," is what Black women must remember when we find ourselves in those tight spots, dark places, uncomfortable situations, we think make our lives so miserable. Whether we accidentally fall into a valley or are shoved in headfirst, the question we must ask ourselves is, "What is the lesson here?" What is the lesson to be learned from those situations we do not like or want to be in? The first thing we must do is realize that difficulties in life are always educational. Art may be easier than history. Gym is usually more fun than math. There is, however, something valuable to be gained from every subject and situation we face if we want to graduate to a higher level of living. Of course, in every class, there is also the issue of passing or failing.
Ann listened intently as the woman on the other end of the telephone recounted the sordid details of her two-year relationship with Ann's mate of one year. With her head in the Valley of Understanding and both feet in the Valley of Courage, Ann had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that she was on the brink of failure. With a steady hand and unblinking eyes, holding the telephone away from her ear, she quietly demanded of him, "How could you do this to me?" Wrong move! It put her heart in the Valley of O.P.P. and her hands in the Valley of Comeuppance. As fear of failure welled up in her mind, promising to overtake her, Ann had to fight back the tears. He was lying across the bed with his head in his hands. Each time he looked up, it was as if he were seeing a ghost. A big Black ghost. A ghost with one hand on her hip and a frying pan in the other. Ann took a deep breath and braced herself to spend the rest of her days in the dunce corner.
Those dark conditions and difficult situations are like valleys because we get there when we lose our footing. We fall down only to find ourselves alone in a physically, mentally, or emotionally uncomfortable place. Valleys look dark and feel dangerous because there never seems to be anyone around who can help you get up. A fall into a valley means you are in some kind of pain. Throbbing head, broken heart, fractured ego, you are trying to figure out what happened; how you got into this mess and how you can get out of it, fast. The pain intensifies as you remember the details of your plight. You imagine all of the possible, plausible, and horrible outcomes. Now you panic. Actually, you feel frantic as you mentally construct your ultimate and looming destruction. It is pure drama, and as Black women, we do it so well.
When we are confronted by a situation we know we must face but would rather not, we shift into high-gear fear -- fear of failure, rejection, the unknown, and the ultimate fear, the fear of being wrong. No one wants to be wrong. For Black women, many of whom believe they have been overlooked, misrepresented, and objectified by major portions of the population, the fear of being wrong sends the brain into overload. Black women will go to any lengths to avoid being wrong. The fear of being wrong forces us to shut down. We shut our eyes, ears, and ultimately, our hearts. If the situation is critical, very important, or dear to us, we may be frightened enough to shut our mouths. A Black woman in fear, with a numb heart and a shut mouth, is a woman in pain.
He finally spoke to her: "I told you it was over!"
"No, you didn't! You told me we would work it out! Then you kissed me and we made love!"
Ann was able to part her lips: "You kissed her?"
There was total silence. They had all stopped breathing.
"You kissed her! Now just a hog-slopping minute! Are you telling me that you are sleeping with this woman after you told me you weren't?"
Ear-piercing silence. Somehow, in all the drama, Ann had missed the fact that they were still seeing each other. This was quickly changing from a valley to a dungeon. The dungeon of clarity. Then she spoke:
"Why don't you answer her?"
"Are you sleeping with this woman?" Ann had shifted out of fear into indignation.
Meekly he answered, "Yes."
That was the final push. Ann fell fiat on her face into the Valley of Knowledge and Wisdom.
It is hard to think when you are in pain. As you frantically anticipate your destruction, which is sure to result when you confront your greatest fear, pain seeps into every fiber of your being. The fear of making a mistake, of being wrong, descends over you like a cloud. We are not talking here about the kind of pain Midol, Anacin, or extra-strength Excedrin can relieve. We are talking about the pain of having your entire existence threatened. The pain of having what you want, need, and love, invalidated or taken away. You picked the wrong one, again. You did not do it right, again. You are in trouble, again. As a result, your head hurts. Your heart is bleeding. You want to think, but the pain is overwhelming. Sound familiar? I thought so!
When We Think We Are Wrong!
When Black women are wrong, we are not only wrong in and of ourselves, we are wrong for our mothers and our greatest grandmother. It is a genetic wrongness which aches down to the bone. The wrongness of Black women has been studied by physiologists, analyzed by psychologists, proven plausible by genealogists, even become the topic of debate at senatorial hearings. A wrong Black woman might as well be a dead one. The mind is dead. The heart is dying. If something is not done quickly to reconcile the feelings of wrongness, the spirit will die. But wait! Isn't being wrong one of the best ways to get your face on television? Never mind that -- we cannot, will not, go down without a fight! On the way to dying, we have to be angry and hateful because we are wrong and have failed. We strike out at, speak out against, those things and people who "made us" wrong, helped us fail. It is all so wonderfully dramatic. For many angry, wrong Black women, failure means your lifeless body must be ceremonially laid to rest in the Valley of Nonresistance, which gives you exactly the excuse you need to buy that new dress.
Ann decided on the spot, "I will not fail! I am not going to be wrong! I will not fail this test!" In her best monotone, Ann explained she had had no idea that he was still intimately involved with her. Ann had to admit she knew the woman worked in one of his businesses. She also knew they shared an apartment when he was in that state. Ann knew he kept a few of his clothes in that apartment. Ann also knew that he lived, conducted most of his business and spent the majority of his time in another state. Ann knew because she called him there and visited him there. To the best of Ann's knowledge he was in the same state with her one day a month. She politely informed Ann that he came home at least two days every month.
"What kind of relationship is that?"
A good one, she thought. "He had promised me..."
"Well, look," Ann said, "I'm outa here. You've got this! You can finish your conversation with him while he gets ready to get out of my house."
When you find yourself in a valley, the best approach is to surrender control. This does not mean you are giving up hopelessly, admitting defeat in anticipation of destruction. That is drama. Surrender is another story altogether. Surrender means you do not fight or struggle against whatever you are facing. It simply means, sit down, shut up, and listen! Be still until your mind is clear and you truly understand where you are, how you got there, and most important, how you can get out without struggle. Difficult situations such as valleys help us grow because they nudge us into a position where we must confront the things we need to know but hate to admit about ourselves.
The valleys also help us understand how we create the greatest, most damaging thrust of the downward plunge into bad situations. In those rare instances when we do not create our own trouble, our dramatic response to trouble creates more difficulty than the actual situation. Every Black woman knows at least one drama queen. These are sisters, friends, mothers, who are forever clutching their bosoms as they declare how horrible, awful, terrible, whatever it is, is. In response to their hysteria, we go into action doing whatever it is we do. In most cases, it is our consistent, conditioned responses to challenges and difficulties, based on past experiences, which send us directly into a valley experience.
In the valley, we are confronted by all of our past experiences, perceptions, and judgments of ourselves and others. The valley is the place we have stored thoughts and feelings, a sort of garbage dump we must wade through in order to move beyond the fear and limitation we now face. We Black women may tell ourselves that when something is over, it is over. Yet there is a part of us which loves to hold on to tidbits of information, believing they might be useful at some point in the future. Experiences which have caused us pain, fear, anger, or disappointment become our greatest enemies when we hold on to them. If we use these historical tidbits as the barometer by which we gauge the present situations in our lives, the stench of the garbage eventually seeps through. Our senses are altered. We respond to what "was" rather than what "is." When this happens, it means there is something we have not learned. We must go back to school. The valley is school.
Ann hung up the telephone. It was then that she realized, "I'm not crying! I'm not numb! I may be a bit rattled, but I'm not dead! I was lied to and betrayed, but I'm not dead! I was wrong about someone I truly love, and I'm not dead. I didn't fail the test!" Ann went into the room with him, stared at him briefly, and shook her head in amazement. She repeated her desire for him to leave. She had a brief moment of faltering. She wanted to know "why." She realized, however, that to know why and not understand it would probably kill her. She decided that "why" didn't matter.
It started as a murmur in the deepest recesses of her brain. As it grew louder, the words became audible: "I can do this! I can do this! Yes! I CAN do this!" He was putting on his shoes. Ann verbalized the mantra: "I can do this!" She got a facecloth from the linen closet, took it into the bathroom, doused it in cold water, and placed it on the back of her neck. "I can do this!" He was standing up. Ann could feel his confusion, pain, fear. "I can do this!" Ann left the room. He left the house. Ann wasn't dead, but what she didn't know at the time was that she was in a very deep, dark valley. As his car pulled away from the house, Ann chanted: "I CAN DO THIS!"
At every single moment, we are given the opportunity to choose our future. What we do today will determine what we face next week, next month, or next year. It is at the moment of a particular occurrence that we are called upon to make a choice: Will I do it the way I've always done it, or will I do it a different way? Our ability to choose is based on what we believe about ourselves, the world, and life. If you believe in garbage, you may choose to stay where you are. If you believe in change, goodness, and growth, you will put your butt on the line and choose a new way. The garbage we believe in, the things we fear, and our need to be right form the skeletal framework in the anatomy of a valley.
What Is a Valley?
In order to avoid confusion, the confusion which is bound to well up in your mind as you try to figure out what valley you may or may not have visited, this brief definition is offered. A valley is a life situation designed to teach a character trait or spiritual virtue which has been undeveloped or underdeveloped during the course of your life. These traits and virtues are things we know we "should" practice, but forget or resist incorporating into our lives. Patience, trust, faith, courage, wisdom, honesty -- each of these in some way corresponds to a natural law or universal principle which governs the orderly flow of life, whether or not we recognize it. The universe we call "life" is actually a spiritual process governed by spiritual laws we are expected to embrace and live by. In fact, each of us is charged at birth with the responsibility of doing so in order to realize emotional growth and spiritual evolution. Unfortunately, we do not realize this very integral fact until much later in life.
Evolution is not an easy task when we view it from a human perspective. As human beings, we are trained to resist that which is difficult and to all but ignore that which is spiritual. We abandon the life-fulfilling process of spiritual evolution for intellectual pursuits. We want to be smart and right, not enlightened and evolved. We are encouraged to develop personality, not spirituality. Although we do not recognize it, we have the opportunity to develop personality through the practice of spiritual traits and virtues. Unfortunately, the pressures of the world tempt us to reject spiritual strength at the first opportunity to get to the top of the personality heap.
The valleys help to bring the true purpose and meaning of life back into focus. Life is learning, growing, giving, sharing, and loving ourselves into a state of unconditional, peaceful acceptance. Your spirit needs peace and love, not a BMW and a VCR! Valleys are situations designed by life in response to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, which are the true indicators of our spiritual needs. Valleys force us to examine what we are doing, why we are doing it, and to decide whether we choose to satisfy the needs of personality or to pursue the evolution of the spirit. The pressure we experience during these growth opportunities in life is what we will call "the valley."
The Valleys Defined
What makes the Black woman's learning experience unique with regard to the experiences of all others? What separates what people learn and how they learn from their experiences in life is how they respond to the experiences. All human beings must develop the same traits, embrace the same virtues, and learn the same lessons. What is unique to a particular group of people, based on race, ethnicity, or gender, is their orientation to the experience of life. What do we expect? What do we want? How can we merge our desires and expectations into a cohesive framework?
Our experience as Black women is unique because of our orientation to the life process. More than half of us believe that everything that goes wrong is our fault. It is our fault because something is wrong with us. The thing that is wrong with us may be tied to our being female. It is often the result of our being Black. Even when we realize and recognize that life's events are not our fault, we still think it is our responsibility to fix whatever or whoever is wrong. Most important of all, Black women are not unique insofar as we are not educated about the universal laws which govern life. This lack of education does, however, affect us differently because we are the daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, friends, workers, and underlings to whom most everyone turns to fix the wrongs.
Our ignorance regarding the universal laws and spiritual principles keeps us on a treadmill of trying to figure out what is wrong, hoping we can fix it, trying to show others we can, and struggling to save and protect ourselves in the process. Our conditioned responses to being on the treadmill -- trying to get off, struggling not to fall off, fighting to keep from being pushed off, and figuring out how we got there in the first place -- take us further away from the spiritual essence of life and the peaceful acceptance of who and what we are. Because women are the mothers, teachers, and supportive foundation of the rest of the human community, it is important that we have the knowledge so that we can teach and share it with others. Because Black women have been so much, to so many, for so long, it is imperative that we get what it takes -- because we need a rest!
The Valley of Light
There are ten valleys which Black women commonly fall into based on their orientation to life and their everyday human experiences. The most common experience, called the Valley of Light, teaches us the lesson of stillness, a state of solitude and silence which forces us to take a look at ourselves. As we look within, we develop the ability to lovingly reflect on ourselves, our lives, and those around us.
Ignorance is a form of darkness. When we are ignorant about our true nature and identity, as well as the divine rights granted to us based on who we are, we are living in darkness. Black women are more prone to stay in the "darkness" of what others have told us about ourselves than any other group. These external forces tell us what they want us to think, to know, in order to ensure they get what they want from us. Because it is the nature of a woman to serve, our internal instinct is to do what is expected of us. Because Black women have been in a position of servitude for so long, we resist the urge to question or challenge what we are told. However, when the time comes for us to question or challenge, and to know the truth about ourselves, we must be cast into the light. Light creates a self-reflection, which is the character trait we develop in this valley. Reflection alone is not a trait. The ability to reflect on self is.
The Valley of Light represents those experiences which force us to question who we are, to acknowledge what we want, and to decide what we are willing to do about who we are and what we want. The Valley of Light is our opportunity to withdraw from the activity of our lives and the people in them, to reflect on what we have been doing, identify the unproductive behavior we have adopted, and figure out what we will choose for ourselves in the future. From the darkness and ignorance which surround the experiences that take us to this valley, we emerge with a new awareness, prompted by a renewed belief in and love of self.
The Enlightenment Process
The Valley of Light is the "mother" of all valleys. Our ability to master the lessons of these experiences will determine our ability to emerge from all other valleys. In the Valley of Light, we are introduced to our God self and reintroduced to the process required for spiritual enlightenment. Your God self is your spirit, that part of you that is connected to the life and power source of the universe. It is the breath expanding in your lungs. The blood running through your veins. Your God knows exactly what to do and how to get it done. This is the part of you that is forever enlightened and desires to shine in the world. Your God self knows every aspect of the enlightenment process. In the silence of this valley, it will emerge in your conscious mind. The enlightenment process in the Valley of Light is the same process used to get the lesson in every valley.
The first phase is detachment. This is the development of the conscious ability to see yourself and others. In order to see yourself in the light, you must be able to detach, to pull back from the world and be still. The next stage is discernment. More than an ability to see, discernment is being able to understand what you are looking at and how it relates to you. This is a process of dissection, cutting open what you have in your life in order to examine it. With that done, understanding seeps in, enabling you to throw away what is not needed. Once you can see and understand, you reach the next phase, enlightenment. With your new vision and understanding, how should you proceed? What is the character trait you need to develop or virtue you need to practice in order to maintain your new state of consciousness? You know because you can see and understand. The next level of the process requires doing. It is called integration. This is the active part of the enlightenment process. You must now take the information you have and integrate it into your life. Because you have consciously decided to discard the old, the useless, in the discernment process, you have the opportunity and ability to do something new. As you do, you reach the fifth and final stage of the enlightenment process, evolution. By integrating the information which has been revealed to you, and by practicing the trait or virtue you now know you must develop or embrace, you can proceed in your life making better choices and wiser decisions.
The enlightenment we gain through the experiences which take us to the Valley of Light, cause us to reflect on ourselves, and ultimately results in self-mastery. Self-mastery and mastery of the enlightenment process are what will be required in order to grasp the lessons of all valleys. The character trait needed, or the virtue to be practiced, is determined by your individual level of development, and will change according to the universal law that governs a given valley. The experience you have and the lesson you will learn is in direct correlation to the virtue or trait you need to embrace at the time of the experience. Say, for example, you mastered patience or honesty to a certain degree; a later, more profound experience can help you foster an even greater mastery and understanding of it.
How well you learn your lesson is determined by your ability to master yourself through developing a character trait or by practicing a spiritual virtue -- your level of mastery determines whether the valley experience is positive or negative. When your responses to any given situation are based on fear or nonproductive habits, a trip to the valley will be negative. When you are willing to move beyond habit and confront what you fear, a valley experience will be positive. You are honing your knowledge of the principles of the universe and the laws of nature. It is your level of mastery and knowledge of the principles and laws which actually determine whether the experience is a ditch, a valley, a dungeon, or Spiritual Special Education.
The lessons of the Valley of Light experiences teach us the power of silence and solitude and the value of self-reflection. Your experiences in this valley will promote your development of the virtue of awareness. Through the light of your reflection and awareness, you find the ability to love yourself. With awareness and self-love tucked in your bra, you realize no matter how low you fall in any valley, if you understand yourself and what you have done to create your valley experience, you are equipped to climb the mountain again. This is the purpose of the next level of experiences, called the Valley of Understanding.
The Valley of Understanding
All of us have had experiences where we believe someone has done us wrong. We have felt betrayed, abandoned, or rejected by someone we loved, trusted, and probably went out of our way to help. When we find ourselves in the midst of this type of experience, undoubtedly we will say, "I don't understand how or why they did this to me!" Of course you don't understand! You are in the Valley of Understanding. Here we are provided an opportunity to strengthen our vision of how we see ourselves and others. This valley helps us understand those aspects of our own nature which must be confronted, accepted, and mastered.
The lesson of this valley is acceptance, learning to see ourselves, other people, and situations as they are, not as we want them to be or fear they might turn out to be. We do not always listen to what is said. We hear it and tell ourselves it means something else. We do not always pay attention to what is going on. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. It is a hazard of not being aware, not being able to accept what really is, and living in fear. It is due to our lack of understanding that the stench of past garbage pollutes our hearts and minds today. The experiences of this valley help us to see how our garbage gets played out through the actions of other people. In the Valley of Understanding, we get a glimpse of all the lessons we will be required to learn in all of the valleys. Here we are tested. We are tested to determine our level of self-understanding.
The universe brings to us other people who show us who and what we are. If we do not understand what is really going on or recognize the lessons we must learn, we mistake our own issues as the shortcomings of others. This valley brings us to the realization that the people in our lives and the situations which confront us are somehow a reflection of our own human nature. The Law of Human Nature which governs this valley helps us to accept what we see without judgment. Nonjudgment is the virtue we must develop in order to gain a deeper understanding of our own nature. The experiences of the Valley of Understanding prepare us for and lead us to the next valley, the Valley of Courage.
The Valley of Courage
For Black women, fear is a major thrust into a valley experience. So many of us, although totally unaware of it, live in a constant state of fear. Fear of failure, rejection, the unknown, being alone, and not being in control. These fears actually emerge as our personality, the bad habits we embrace, and the excuses we give ourselves to stay in self-denial. Fear enables us to convince ourselves that the poor or failing quality of our lives is caused by something or someone outside of ourselves. The truth is, most Black women are riddled with fear. We are afraid "in" the world. Afraid "of" our men. Afraid "for" our children. Most of all, we are afraid of our own power.
Black women are not taught the true meaning of the virtue of courage. We are taught responsibility, accountability, and dependability. We are taught to be neat, clean, and as quiet as possible. Courage, we are taught, is a "guy" thing. For years, I allowed myself to remain in bad relationships, meaningless jobs, and mental and emotional confusion by telling myself "they" would not allow me to move beyond where I was. As I grew in spiritual consciousness, I realized that I stayed where I was so long because I was afraid to go anywhere else.
The Valley of Courage is named for the character trait it teaches. In order to have courage, we must develop the ability to surrender. This is the trait we master in this valley. We must surrender our secrets: our secret fears and secret thoughts about ourselves and the world. As we surrender, we begin to trust the universe called life. We learn to trust the spirit within. We begin to examine what we really believe about ourselves, our lives, and the people we have attracted into our experience. The Law of Belief which governs this valley enables us to see that it is not life we fear, rather our beliefs about life create our fears. When we master our fears, we become courageous and trusting. With courage and trust, no valley is too deep, no challenge too difficult to confront.
The Valley of Knowledge and Wisdom
From the Valley of Courage, we usually take a trip through the Valley of Knowledge and Wisdom. We all know everything we need to know. The knowledge we need to face most of life's experiences is imprinted on our genes. It was passed on to us by our grandmothers, reinforced through and by our mothers. Our challenge is to develop the wisdom required to put what we know to good use, which is often made difficult because Granny and Momma did not come right out and tell us what they knew. Oh no! That would have made it too easy! Instead, the knowledge and wisdom is couched in old wives' tales, euphemisms, and innuendo.
We all remember being told, "Never say never." Then there is the classic warning, "Stop saying what you can't do!" How could we forget "Stand up straight. Hold your head up when someone is talking to you!" And no grandmother would be worth her weight in salt had she not told you, at least fifty times a year, to "Mind your own business!" There is knowledge hidden in the midst of the sassy gems. Momma knew it. Granny knew it. However, in the midst of the hysteria of your puberty, followed by the hormonal imbalance of your adolescence, which flowed right into the transformative migration of your adulthood, they forgot to tell you what they really meant. Now your job is to find out and use it wisely.
You will know you are in this valley when you are faced with a situation which you can't seem to get out of or around. When everyone you talk to tells you something different and none of it makes sense. Your memory tries to fail you as Granny's face cascades before you. She is waving that finger at you. Momma's voice is ringing in your ears reminding you of all the things you never listened to. You struggle against admitting that their mumbling, ranting, and raving are finally beginning to make sense. The issue now becomes, are you going to be obedient, this time? Will you exercise your freedom to choose? To speak? To act? To stand tall and hold your head high? Do you believe you have the power to trust what you "know" and act on it? The Law of Obedience is at work here. Obedience is a virtue we must grow in if we are to act wisely.
When you are in the Valley of Knowledge and Wisdom, you are down for the full count. The drama is not working and no one wants to hear your story. This is really an optimum learning environment. There is absolutely no one for you to talk to and you are forced to figure out what to do. The lesson of this valley is to sit down, shut up, and listen to the quiet voice within which knows exactly what is best for you in the face of any situation. If you can practice a little discipline, you are sure to get it done. Discipline is the trait we develop in this valley. Yet discipline alone will not save you. You must have faith, which is the lesson this valley teaches. If you have faith that your listening will pay off, you will be disciplined. If you are disciplined, you must be obedient. When you are obedient, suddenly, miraculously, you realize you know exactly what to do and how to do it. The problem is trying to stay focused on what you know and not get caught up in O.P.P.
The Valley of O.P.P.
A friend's teenage daughter was moping around the house with such fervor that she left a cloud of dismay as she passed through the room.
"What's the matter with you?" her mother demanded.
"Naaathinnn" was the response she dragged out over thirty seconds.
"So why do you look like that? Why are you spreading negative energy throughout the house?"
"I want to go out, that's all!"
"So go skating!"
"I can't! Cathy's on punishment and she can't go!"
"Well, what does that have to do with you?"
"Cathy is my best friend. I can't go without herl I won't have any fun!"
"So stay home and suffer! But do it in your room!"
How many of us stay where we are, physically, mentally, and emotionally, suffering in silence, because we dare not move beyond our circle of family, friends, or loved ones? There are many. It is an affliction which plagues the average Black woman. It is called O.P.P.: Other People's Problems, Perspectives, and Purposes. It is a valley which for many becomes a life-threatening dungeon.
The Valley of O.P.P. is the situation in which you find yourself when your life is going well, you have all you could possibly dream of, and everything is going your way, but you cannot enjoy it because you are bogged down with "O.P.P." It is when you put your lite, your goals, and your dreams on hold in order to help someone else create their life. They may fail and blame you, which means you are stuck in guilt. Or they may succeed and forget you, in which case you are stuck in anger. O.P.P. is about people pleasing. The lesson of this valley is freedom. Freedom comes when we have mastered the inner strength and ability to say, "This is not my issue!" Strength is the trait we must master in order to embrace the virtue of honesty. You must be honest enough to say what you will do, won't do; can do, cannot do. Most of all, the Valley of O.P.P. teaches us there comes a time when we must say "No!" and not feel guilty. It all corresponds to the Law of Sacrifice which governs this valley and motivates us to ask ourselves, to whom and for what are we sacrificing our divine right of freedom? Most of us do not realize we are free to think, do, and move on our own. We do not realize this because we are not on purpose.
The Valley of Purpose and Intent
We love to flit around doing a little of this and a little of that. Running here and going there. Starting this and finishing something else, while there are things we should start and don't, things we should finish but cannot. We are too busy flitting with no real purpose. In the most severe flitting cases, we get very little done for others and even less done for ourselves. But we look and feel very busy. Life has a cure for flitting and flitters. It is called the Valley of Purpose and Intent.
The experiences which take us into this valley are designed to force us to question what we are doing and the purpose of it all. The lesson of this valley is alignment. We each have a purpose, you know. Each of us has come to life at this time to do a specific thing. Unfortunately, we spend far too much time flitting around, which prevents us from developing clarity about what exactly our purpose is. Clarity is the virtue we develop in this valley. When you have clarity, commitment is an easy task. This valley is designed to foster the development of the character trait of commitment.
In the Valley of Purpose and Intent, we are afforded the opportunity to get really clear about our purpose in life and to make a commitment to pursue that purpose. You know you are in this valley when no matter what you try to do, it does not work. When your best-laid plans go awry. When no matter what you say, people do not hear you, do not listen to you, and just do not seem to care about you. This is also the valley we end up in when we have a lot of irons in the fire. If we are not on purpose, the winds of change are sure to blow hard, making sure the fire under the irons -- which probably serve no purpose -- will not stay lit. But isn't life like that? Just when we think we've got it all together, something else will come up to prove us wrong. When the winds blow and things come up, rest assured, you are in the Valley of Comeuppance.
The Valley of Comeuppance
Everyone ends up in this valley sooner or later because we are all held accountable for everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do. It is the Law of Cause and Effect in operation. This valley has a double lesson: responsibility and forgiveness. As Black women, we must take responsibility for our lives. We are powerful, even when we do not mean to be. Our thoughts create. Our words create. Our actions have a rippling effect on everything and everyone with whom we come into contact. We cannot afford to wag our tongues mindlessly or direct our thoughts with vengeance. It is dangerous! Not only to the people we direct it towards, but to ourselves, when it comes up in our lives.
When we lose something we treasure, when we are denied something we deserve, or when we are slandered in some way, the issue is not, "Look what they are doing to me now!" The issue is, who have you wished harm on lately? Who have you spoken ill of lately? Is there a confidence you have betrayed in the past, let us say, ten or twenty years? We want to blame somebody else again. The universe will not hear of it! The universal Law of Cause and Effect is teaching us a lesson. The lesson is, everything happens twice, first on the inside, then on the outside. In other words, whatever is going on in your life has its roots in what is going on in your mind and in what is coming out of your mouth. It will all come up for you to see.
The lesson we must learn and the trait we must embrace to free ourselves from the experiences of the Valley of Comeuppance is forgiveness. We must forgive others for what they have done and what we think they have done to us. We must also forgive ourselves for the things we have done to ourselves and others. If we do not forgive, the barnacles of the past hang on to our minds and hearts. These barnacles cause us to say and do things which have no place in the sisterhood of oneness. Eventually we may change, but if we have not given, accepted, or asked for forgiveness, the universe owes us a turn. The theory is, "What goes around, comes around." And it doesn't have to come from the same place you gave. The virtue to be mastered is consciousness. Be conscious of what you are thinking, saying, and doing. When you are conscious and consciously forgiving, you will be able to overcome whatever comes up. That is, unless you are one of those who continues to resist the lessons. Not to worry! Life has something for you too. You are a prime candidate for the Valley of Nonresistance.
The Valley of Nonresistance
Picture this, if you will. You have just found the most stunning dress you have ever seen in your life. You can just picture the heads turning as you walk into your uncle's cousin's daughter's wedding in this dress. There was only one left in the store and it was your size. The dress makes you look five pounds thinner and five years younger. This is a baaaad dress! You must have it! Now here's the problem. The dress is very lovely, but the color is off. Too off for brown shoes or beige shoes. Black shoes will dress it down, white shoes will kill it. Not to worry! One of your shoe haunts is bound to have something that will match or at least come close.
This is your lucky day! The very first place you try has the shoe that matches the dress exactly! Now Murphy steps in. The display model is a six. The one other pair available is a seven and a half. You need an eight! However, you can get your foot in a seven and a half. It is tight but bearable. The salesperson offers to stretch it for you. You graciously accept by saying you are going to buy panty hose and will return in fifteen minutes. You come back. Try the shoe on for the sixth, no, seventh time. Miraculously it feels fine. You walk around. No problem. You try a few dance steps. No pain. Knowing perfectly well the dangers of putting your size eight foot into a size seven and a half shoe, you whip out your Visa card and lay down eighty dollars for a pair of shoes which could very well cripple you. A pair of shoes that are bound to end up collecting dust in the bottom of the closet. To cure Black women of their compulsive urge to do what we know we should not do, the university of life has created the Valley of Nonresistance.
This valley is about much more than our tendency to put a square peg in a round hole. This valley responds to our inability to recognize what is square and who is round. This valley goes beyond the Black woman's inability to see or accept people and things as they are. The Valley of Nonresistance, which bears the nickname of "Have It Your Way," is the only classroom which effectively teaches us we cannot fix things, change people, or make something anything that it is not. This is a valley of potential Spiritual Special Ed, designed to assist those of us who want to make things happen, who insist they must happen, not in the simplest or most advantageous way, but in the way we want them to turn out -- the way they always do when we fail to use common sense, ignore the intuitive urging from our hearts, accept what we know is less than what we want, and squeeze ourselves into places we have no business being. These things happen in a manner which makes us painfully aware that "our way" may not be "the way."
The Valley of Nonresistance is governed by the Law of Nonresistance. The lesson we learn in this valley is cooperation. The trait we must embrace is humility. The virtue we develop is balance, knowing when to do, what to do, and how much to do in any given circumstance. The greatest value of this valley, over the course of a woman's lifetime, is that the lessons she learns here are bound to limit the number of pairs of shoes she buys and cannot wear. Think how sad that will make Visa! Think how happy that will make your feet!
The Valley of Success
Some of us will never forget that beautiful pair of shoes that did not fit. We carry the pain of it in our hearts and minds, repeating the story over and over, trying to convince others that things never seem to go our way. We cannot and do not admit that we are giving our lives away to other people, so we make up a story. "Well, I guess it's just not my time." "No, that's okay, you take it. I can wait." These are just samples of the personal lies we tell ourselves to cover the core belief, "I really don't deserve it." The Valley of Success, which is nicknamed "I Didn't Really Want It Anyway!," is the way the universe cures us of telling personal lies.
Black women are not taught how to ask for what they want. We do not want to bother other people. We do not think what we want is important. An even greater number of us rarely expect to get the things we ask for. We may believe we ask for too much, or that we really cannot have more than we already possess. In this valley, we learn through the Law of Success that life gives us exactly what we expect. If we go through life expecting a thimbleful, that is exactly what we will get from life. The trait we develop in this valley is expansion. We must expand our expectations in life. The lesson we learn in this valley is patience. Expansion doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and we must be patient with ourselves and life. We must have patience in our worthiness to receive. We must have faith in the process of life by knowing it will deliver all that we are ready and willing to receive. Here, we free ourselves from the claws of the green-eyed monster and the fangs of self-denial. The Valley of Success is life's way of pushing you to your greatness.
The Valley of Love
The dungeon of all valleys is the Valley of Love. We have all been in this valley at one time. This is when the bottom drops out! Your eyes are swollen. Your head is spinning. Your heart is broken and your lover is gone! In the Valley of Love, the lessons of all the other valleys come into play. The Valley of Understanding reminds us of all the warning signs we did not see or failed to heed. The Valley of Knowledge and Wisdom reminds us of all the things we wanted to say and wanted to do, but did not have the courage or wisdom to say or do. The Valley of Purpose and Intent kicks in, reminding us that we were never quite sure of where the relationship was going or what we expected from it. Even when we were clear and expected the best, the Valley of Success reminds us of the number of times we changed our minds.
The Valley of Love is the real garbage collector. All of your fears are exposed and revealed. They come up for the sole purpose of teaching us that the relationship we have is only the mirror reflection of the relationship we are having with ourselves. Whatever that is, whatever that looks like, will be revealed in the Valley of Love.
If you have broken any universal laws, you will face your judge and jury in the Valley of Love. The jury is yourself. The judge is your mind. If you are deficient in any character trait, the Valley of Love is your booster shot. If you have forgotten to, failed to, or chosen not to practice any one or all of the virtues of life, the ramifications of your actions will come up in the Valley of Love. Here we learn that the purpose of relationships is not to make ourselves feel good. Relationships help us heal. This applies not only to our intimate or love relationships, but to all our relationships.
When our relationships are based on total self-acceptance, we can accept others as they are, love them just as they are, without trying to fix them or expecting them to fix us. In order for our relationships to facilitate healing, we must practice unconditional love of ourselves, family members, friends, and mates. Unconditional love allows us to love someone without expectation, judgment, fear, or the need to be in their face all the time. It enables us to live and love, rather than living just to find someone to love in the hope that they will make us feel lovable.
The Valley of Love is ruled by all the universal principles. Cause and effect, belief, awareness, courage, sacrifice, nonresistance, faith, trust -- you name it, you will need it during the experiences which take you to this valley. The stellar principle and guiding light of this valley is the Law of Love. Very simply put, God is love. God is the spirit within who knows what we need even before we ask. That spirit of love wants only the highest and the best for us. It does not require that we demean or deny ourselves in any way for the sake of its name, love. Since many of us have not been taught who we are or what love is, we think we are missing something, we think there is something else we need. In the Valley of Love, we get exactly what we need to find the love we already have within.
So You've Fallen and, Think you Can't Get Up!
We are perfect, even in our imperfection. There is, however, always room for improvement. Valley experiences bring us to conscious awareness of exactly what it is that we need to improve. Valleys help us recognize, develop, and utilize the spiritual quality or character trait needed to foster spiritual growth and self-improvement. We think bad situations come up in our lives because we are bad, or have done something bad. It simply is not so. We must grow into our greatness. Until we are equipped to do so, until we recognize that we are able to do so, we will find ourselves dealing with the same situations and people who create the same negative feelings we say we no longer want to experience. In other words, until we make a change, have a shift in consciousness, we will stay in the valley.
Your anticipation of greatness and goodness is what makes the valleys so valuable. They help us to recognize that whatever comes up in our lives is in direct correlation to what we need to know and learn in order to evolve. Valleys keep us from being in places we have no business being in by forcing us to realize we can do better. We must do better! Change is the first step toward betterment. If we get the lesson and make the change, we will do better! As long as we think we are cute enough and smart enough, we will not see any room for improvement. Even if we are surrounded by unproductive people and limiting situations, we can do better if we get the lesson and understand the role we play. As long as we resist the lesson, for any reason, we stay in the valley, whining, complaining, blaming, not growing or changing.
This brings us to the good news and the bad news about valleys. The good news is, once you get the lesson, develop the trait, embrace the virtue, and make the shift, you will rise up out of the valley. You will have revelations which bring clarity and a deeper understanding of things which once haunted you. When this occurs, those old situations and people will either make the shift with you or they will move out of your life. If you really get the lesson, if you are really willing to change and grow, you will be required to release the old and make room for the new. That in and of itself is a lesson. Don't worry -- the valley will prepare you to accept it.
The bad news is, once you make it out of a valley, it does not mean you are free. There are other valleys with other lessons, other areas you need to strengthen and improve. You will be tested. You must be able to demonstrate what you have learned. You must exhibit through new thought patterns, attitudes, and behaviors, that you really got the lessons of the valleys you have passed through. Unfortunately, on your second, third, and fourth trip to the valleys, the signs are not so easy to recognize. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall," is a fitting description of the valley phenomena. The more you know, the more you are required to know and practice in your day-to-day living.
A Little Valley Is a Ditch!
The universe of life is really merciful. If and when we are willing to learn, we will receive our lessons lovingly and gently. There are those times when what could be a deep valley turns out to be just a little ditch. This means we are down, but we can see our way up. We have stumbled, but our face has not hit the ground. A friend of mine always reminds me, "To stumble does not mean you fall. Sometimes it means you move ahead a little faster." Stumbling into a ditch does not render you helpless. There is something for you to grab or hold on to. Hopefully, it is something you have heard, seen, or learned from a past lesson.
A ditch is life's way of reminding you there is something you know but are not using. You need a wake-up call so that you will not repeat the same mistakes. A ditch lets you know you are headed for a valley. It is life's way of pointing out the warning signs. You will see things you cannot ignore. Hear things that will jolt your memory. If you have mastered yourself and the enlightenment process, you will know there are real dangers which lie ahead. You must be very careful. You will be required to make some hard decisions. Most important, you must be able to act on what you know. If you cannot or do not recognize the signs, employ the process, a ditch will very quickly turn into a valley.
A ditch is like a toothache. When the tooth starts to hurt, you can take some aspirin to make the pain go away, or you can go to the dentist, get the thing x-rayed, and find out what is really going on. Ignoring or numbing the pain may give an infection or a serious problem the opportunity to become worse. Going to the dentist may cost you a little more in time, energy, and money, but you will get to the root of the problem. We may stumble into another ditch when we profess we have learned our lesson. We go around affirming and believing we have truly learned our lesson. "It will never happen to me again!" "I will never do that again!" Grandma tried to warn you about saying never! To test your level of mastery, the universe may send to you an identical or similar situation clothed in different garments. The people will be different. The circumstances will be different. The temptation will be great. The core or underlying issue will be the same.
When you are being tested, you have pangs of familiar feelings. You may even comment on them. "Something doesn't feel right about this!" "I'm not sure what to do yet!" Other people involved will try to assure you there is nothing to worry about. They will encourage you to abandon your own discernment process. Rest assured, you are in a ditch. Spirit will not lie to you. When things are right in your spirit, you will be at peace. No peace, no spirit! It may be time for you to pull back and watch. Gather more information before you move ahead. At any cost, when you are in doubt, pray! If you have truly learned your lesson, you will recognize your pattern and retreat. The ditch has broken your fall! You are not dead! However, if you allow yourself to be convinced that it will be "different this time," or if you think, "This cannot happen to me again," you will persist. If you move against the warnings, chances are you will end up in the same valley for the same reason as before: You missed the lesson.
Some of Us Need Spiritual Special Ed!
Unfortunately, there are those Black women who repeatedly miss the lesson, stumble through the ditch, and fall head first into the valley. These are the women who will never admit to themselves or anyone else that there is even the slightest possibility that they have made a mistake, poor choice, or unwise decision. These women are simply never wrong. They continue to do things their way, over and over again, getting exactly the same results. They refuse to admit, "My way is not working." They do not get the point -- the point being that if they really knew what to do, they would have already done it. The point is, they want to be right at any cost. The need to be right, coupled with the fear of being wrong, eventually renders these women spiritually retarded and makes them prime candidates for Spiritual Special Ed.
I met a woman who insisted on having relationships with men who were born in the month of June, under the zodiac sign Gemini. She was convinced the men born under this sign were the only men who could satisfy her emotional and sexual needs. Her mantra was "I just can't help myself! I love Gemini men!" When she found herself dating a man who was not born under this sign, she would find something incredibly wrong with him as an excuse to dump him. This woman would search around, ignoring perfectly wonderful and interested suitors, until she found a Gemini.
Her first Gemini lover was married. After promising to leave his wife and two children for two years, he eventually moved to another city. The second Gemini, the perfect Gemini man, literally left her at the altar. The third one fathered her two children during their first three years together and refused to marry her. Instead, he married her sister's best friend. The wedding was held in her sister's house. At the age of thirty-five, she met a man who was born on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. She was reluctant, but decided to go for it. He cleaned out her bank account after they had been living together for nine months.
At tile end of each romance, she would cry and bemoan her fate: "Why can't I find a good man and have a good relationship?" She decided there were no good men at all. She resigned herself to accepting whatever she got and making the best of it. Friends and family told her to be patient. Her prayer was to find a good Gemini man who could make her happy and help raise her children. I told her she might want to consider a Leo man, a Scorpio, or anything other than a Gemini. Since she was really into astrology and believed Gemini was her most compatible sign, she dismissed my idea as being completely absurd. She knew there was the "right Gemini" out there and she would keep trying until she found him.
When you are in Spiritual Special Ed, other people laugh at you. They listen to your story and shake their heads. You think they are agreeing with you. The moment your back is turned, they point at you, telling other people how you just don't get it. You keep drooling on yourself, spewing the same dribble which gets you into so much trouble. People want to help you. They ask you questions which you find very annoying. You think to yourself, "What is the matter with them? Why don't they understand that I am right? I am going to prove to them that I am right if it is the last thing I do!" Trying to prove to yourself and the world that you are right eventually renders you spiritually retarded, a candidate for Spiritual Special Ed, unable to move from point A to point B.
When you are spiritually retarded, you argue for and hold on to the very things which limit your ability to grow. You whine and complain because you are unwilling to do the remedial work. People around you get tired of hearing your story. They speak openly behind your back: "Well, you know how she is! She doesn't listen!" When you are spiritually retarded, you cannot hear and do not listen. You are busy affirming the party line, "I am going to do this if it kills me!" If you continue in your way, resisting the lesson, insisting you are right, struggling to have your way, you will eventually die, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Constant struggle and conflict can kill your will to live. But life will not give you up without a fight! Life needs you, your gifts, talents, and energy. Life therefore has given us Spiritual Special Ed as a life preserver; if you hang in there long enough, you will get the lesson!
No valley is an absolute fun place to be. The objective is for you to realize you are having a learning experience, recognize what it is, realize how you got into the situation, and be willing to make the required changes to move beyond where you are. Spiritual Special Ed is not a valley in and of itself. It is the result of the attitude and energy you bring to the learning experience. Your willingness to learn or resistance to learning will determine the condition of the valley in which you find yourself. When you are in a valley with resistance and resentment, chances are you need remediation. When you are willing to take responsibility for what you have done or not done, learning from the challenges, obstacles, and difficulties you face, you will grow. You are an easy learner. In your case, the valley is merely downtime -- time to reflect, regroup, and heal.
In Every Lesson There Is a Blessing!
As the Reverend Michael Beckwith of the AGAPE Church of Religious Science says:
When you are in a valley, a difficult experience, do not fight it. Your job is to figure out, "If this situation were to remain the same for the rest of my life, what quality would I need to develop to have peace? Do I need patience? Faith? Tolerance? Or some deeper understanding of who I am?"
If you can remember this, you will realize that every valley experience is an opportunity for you to take one step closer to your greatness.
Peace is a universal principle by which we all must learn to live. The valleys help us grow the character traits and embrace the spiritual virtues we need to find peace within ourselves and life. Whatever the situation in which we find ourselves, we can find the answer through peace, a peace-filled mind and a peaceful heart. Peace is the most advantageous learning environment. In it, we can hear ourselves think and feel what is going on within the universe of our being. In peace, the healing process begins. We realize our experiences, no matter how dark they may be, are merely lessons to guide us. Trouble comes to pass, not to stay! Valleys may seem like troubled times and troubling experiences. In reality, they are transitory conditions you must pass through on your way to peace. It is your attitude, your consciousness, which transforms a temporary valley experience into Spiritual Special Ed.
Spiritual Special Ed is for the stubborn, the hardheaded, downright obstinate Black women who actually have a great deal to do in life, a special gift to offer. Yet they refuse to surrender to the guidance of their own spirit. They hold on to "their way." They cannot trust spirit because S/He may not do it right. These women, of whom I am sure you know at least one, only learn one way -- painfully. For many Black women, painfully is the only way we will accept the lesson. Fine! Have it your way! The universe responds to us by giving us exactly what we ask for and need.
Pain gets your attention. Pain forces you to focus. When you are in pain, you pay attention to what is going on in you and around you. Spiritual Special Ed experiences are painful. They are the universe's way of saying, "Look! Something is not working! Stop and pay attention!" You stop, not because you want to, but because the pain forces you to realize you have no other choice. There are those Black women who have become conditioned to living in the midst of a dull ache. Others have steeled themselves to the point that they can survive in excruciating pain. These women wish they knew what was wrong. They try to make things better. They hope things will turn around. Wishing, hoping, and trying means you are not doing what it takes to alter the situation. A Special Ed experience will show you exactly what you must do to excavate the source of the infection that is causing the pain.
Spirit Never Strikes Without a Warning!
The lady Gemini-lover eventually spent three years in the Valley of Light: silence, solitude, and for her, celibacy. Choosing not to be depressed and lonely because she was alone, she used the time to get clear about her true feelings and what she really wanted in her life. She decided a loving, committed relationship with a supportive, loving mate was more important than astrological compatibility. She spent the downtime preparing herself for that experience by finding new things to do that she eventually hoped to share with her mate. She also spent quality time with her children, family, and friends. She went back to school to complete her first college degree. She bought a new wardrobe which helped to change her self-image.
One day, it all seemed to pay off. She met a truly gorgeous man on the elevator. He helped her carry a heavy box. They began to date. She refused to ask him his birth sign. She liked him, he seemed to like her, but there was something strange about him. She could not quite put her finger on it, so she detached, just a bit. He gave her his office and beeper number. No home phone. According to him, he was rarely home. "I'm a workaholic," he said. Still, there were other things he said and did which were vaguely familiar to her. She began to pray for clarity. He was clearly more loving, supportive, and generous than any of the others, but there was no peace in her heart about the relationship. Finally she asked him, "What is your astrological sign?" He was born under the sign of Cancer, but his moon, his emotional outlook, was in the sign of Gemini. Remember discernment? Figure out what was going on. She was in a ditch and she knew it. The lady began to back up. Within two weeks she discovered that not only was he married, but he had another girlfriend.
When we find ourselves in the same valley repeatedly as a result of our conditioned responses, we must stop and do a new thing. The situation may look different. The route we take there may be altogether different. The lesson we must learn does not change. Get honest! Pay attention! Change what you do to create a change for yourself! If we use valley experiences as reflective tools, we gain clarity. When we put forth the effort required to gain an understanding of our underlying motives, we can turn any valley into a ditch. The lesson for the Gemini-lover was not about astrology. It was about her belief that there were no good men. For most of her life, she had expected to be treated badly by men. Expectations equal results! Furthermore, she had convinced herself that she had to accept whatever she got in life. "If you hold out a thimble..." The fact that she thought a Gemini could give her what she wanted was her conditioned response. Fortunately, this friend was willing to grow. It took two more years in the Valley of Light. Anything worth having is worth waiting for! Eventually she married a Scorpio.
The same lesson, applied to a different area of our lives, will take us to a different valley. Dishonesty in relationships, for example, will send us to the Valley of Love, while dishonesty in business will send us to the Valley of Comeuppance. The different valley experiences provide us with the opportunity to develop and practice the traits and virtues we need in the different aspects of our lives. Since we all believe we have reasonable excuses for doing the things we do, we believe we should be spared on the "little" things. When it comes to valley experiences, however, the degree of the infraction does not spare you a trip. But it will determine how quickly you get the point and the length of your stay.
Valley experiences are not one-size-fits-all. They are custom-designed. What could be a small infraction for one person could result in a long valley experience for her, while others seem to get away with murder. The key is what you need to learn and your willingness to learn it. Some are held accountable for behavior patterns. Others for thoughts and desires. Some people are held accountable for what we call personality. Others for what can genuinely be called learned behavior. Regardless of the degree or level of responsibility, doing the same thing, ending up in the same situation, repeatedly, without any indication of a willingness to change, is spiritual retardation. Special education is required.
You Have to Figure Out What Valley You Are In!
You can determine what valley you have fallen into once you identify the lesson you are learning or the virtue you must practice to eliminate the pain of the experience. There are several ways to figure this out, based on the complexity of the experience you have. The first way is to sincerely ask yourself, "What is the lesson here?" If you ask earnestly, with a desire and intent to know, you will enter the Valley of Light. At just the right moment, the answer will pop into your mind or be revealed to you in some other undeniable way. This is the simplest way, and therefore, the path of most resistance. Black women rarely do what is simple and easy. It is an outgrowth of our addiction to drama. If it ain't hard, it ain't Black! Furthermore, we have been taught not to trust ourselves. How, then, could we possibly believe that the correct or appropriate response would spring forth from our own minds? So we move on to the next, more difficult method. We ask why.
If you ask why enough times, of the right people, you are bound to stumble upon the lesson. What makes this a slightly more difficult method is you are bound to talk to a number of people who, because of their own lesson, cannot help you at all. Another percentage of the people you speak to will tell you what they think you want to hear. If you are lucky, there will be in the mix the person or people with the honesty and wisdom to tell you the absolute truth about yourself in a loving and passionate way. What they will tell you will be so simple, you won't believe it. You will instead spend lots of time and energy trying to figure out which of the other people have given you the best answer.
Eventually, you will find yourself in such pain and confusion that you will take the easy way out. You will go back to the simple answer. You will think about it. It will present some very provocative thoughts and ideas. If you can resist the urge to beat up on yourself, you will be able to identify the lesson, embrace the virtue, and honor the universal law governing your situation. The lesson will usually be something you already knew. Either it crossed your mind before -- you were warned about it, or you had a dream about it -- or you have lived through it before. Spirit never strikes without a warning. We see the signs. Unfortunately, we allow ourselves to call the warnings something else. Your lesson will be something you must do or stop doing if you want to change your experience.
Packing for the Journey
Are you ready to take the trip, to explore, examine, and hopefully gain a conquering understanding of your deepest, darkest, most painful experiences? If you are ready, you will need a few supplies, things you must know and remember in order to reach your destination successfully. First of all, remember: A valley is an experience. It is temporary, transitory, moving through your life in order to help you grow. Life's objective in providing us with these experiences is self-mastery. As you master yourself, you master the conditions of your life.
Life wants the best for you. Life wants you to be happy. Life supports you in moving toward your happiness by providing you with very simple principles to follow. Life calls the principles universal or natural laws. They are the very things your mother tried to tell you, but you did not listen. Now, as an adult, life is holding you responsible for governing your life in accordance with its laws. These are the character traits you must develop, the virtues or principles you must practice and apply to every area of your life. When life becomes aware that you are not practicing a certain principle or that you are resisting the development of a particular character trait, it tests you. It allows you to make the choice. Will you take the high road, follow the law, or will you go on your merry way and continue to make a mess of things? The tests we face in life are called valleys.
You can successfully emerge from any experience if you understand the process, if you have a formula to apply. You have a formula. Be sure to apply it to all valley experiences. Detach, discern, enlighten, integrate, evolve. Be still! Figure out what is really going on. Accept the truth as it is revealed to you and make a decision. Integrate what you know into what you do. Do whatever is right for you to move beyond where you are. Remember, the peace must be within. Do not be overly concerned with what is going on without!
If you do not like tests, you will not pay attention to what you are doing and what you are creating in your life. You will stumble around in darkness, stubbing your toes and pulling very heavy, burdensome experiences into your life. If you are in the dark, it is difficult to see. You may even think someone else is pushing or pulling you. Perhaps you believe they are trying to stop you from moving freely in life. If you think someone is after you, bothering you, trying to stop you, you'll probably be very pissed off. When you are tested, you will blame someone else for your own lack of preparation, but life knows the truth! Life knows that you are in need of special help, special assistance. Life loves you so much that it sends you just what you need.
If you find yourself in Spiritual Special Ed, a very painful experience you have been in before, check your attitude! Follow the process, examine yourself, and bring yourself to a peaceful state of mind about whatever you are going through. If you can do that without blame or guilt, chances are you will graduate with the rest of your class.
Lights! Cameras! Action! The spotlight is on you. As we move through the valleys together, look at yourself. Identify your issues, patterns, challenges. Apply the process to you. Be sure you know what to do and what you have done. Identify what worked and what did not work. Check yourself!. Always check in on your attitude. Examine what you are thinking and feeling. If you feel any resistance welling up in your heart and mind, if you are judging, criticizing, calling anyone you see in these pages stupid or dumb, stop! Go back to the beginning! There is something you may have missed. What you see in others is a reflection of you!
If you are in a valley now, be sure to heed the warning signs as you see them. It is quite possible you can turn a valley into a ditch. Above all else, be sure you celebrate the progress you have made. Honor your growth! Laugh at where you were by acknowledging where you are now. Remember, you are not alone. There are thousands of us taking the journey with you and the Mother is leading the way. Just to be on the safe side, use the following road map of the valleys as a study guide so you will always be able to recognize where you are and what you need to do about it. I will be waiting for you at the top of the mountain with an ice-cold nonalcoholic piña colada.
Meditation with the Mother
The night is far spent, the day is at hand., let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light.
O my daughters! You have been taught such lies! I wish I could say they were mistakes. I cannot! You have been taken off course by lies and my heart is burdened and bludgeoned by your apparent inability to heal or help yourselves. You have been taught that you are nothing, useless, without a man and the things men appropriate to you or for you. The truth is, men and their things convert you into useless nothings! I am not condemning nor dismissing men or your sacred unions with them. I am revealing to you that "I," not "they," make you whole. When you honor my energy, the "Mother" energy, the Divine energy in your soul, your union with men becomes functional, not fictional!
It is fiction to believe that a man can make you whole or complete. You were made "completely whole" in the beginning when the Father and I joined to form the cyclic activity called life. We were joined at the hip and the heart to recreate ourselves.for our pleasure and longevity. Now today, our daughters have been taught to believe they are worthless without the sons, when in fact the sons would have no existence without the daughters. They alone cannot recreate themselves.
It is a good thing that you give yourselves to the sons. However,.you must be certain that the son you give yourself to is a "good" son. In your quest for men and things, you may forget what this requires. I am with you at these times. These are the times I send you to the temple of solitude to reconnect with me. I find need to nurture your heart, nurse your wounds, and resurrect your intuitive knowing power.
But you, my daughters, resist! You use electronic devices to drown out my words and dim your senses. You live in your heads, trying to figure out what to do, rather than in your hearts, where I instruct you. When you live in your head, you cannot feel the surge of life growing inside of you. You cannot connect with the divine ability to create your world and recreate yourself. You live in your head because you have been taught to dishonor your heart. To feel is not honorable in your world. To feel is a showing of weakness. To feel is to be vulnerable. Yet to feel is the only way to cultivate your connection to the spirit of the Father and Mother alive within you.
When you, my daughters, behave in the manner of men, you disconnect yourself from me. You begin to think. You think you are right. You think you are wrong. You think he loves you. You think he does not. In solitude, if you would become still, come to me -- I will tell you all you need to know. It will be functional and real, not fictional and temporarily satisfying.
Trust me, my daughters. Trust your heart, for there is the truth. Stop loving with your minds, love with your heart, your true heart: Acknowledge your need to cuddle; your need to cook and mend; your need to be still while looking into the eyes of your loved one as if he were a babe on your breast and silently transmit "I love you." The feelings in your heart must be aligned with the thoughts in your mind. When the two are joined, you will know there is a sacred union.
When you are in solitude and silence, come to me. Come in prayer and earnest will. Desire to know me, whatever you call me. Welcome me into your life. I will not lead you astray. I will not overpower your ability and right to choose yourself that which you think.you want. What I will do for the daughters who come to me and honor me is teach you how to love powerfully, live peacefully, and grow wholesomely. It is my desire to recreate the love of the Mother in the world. It is my will that you be my instruments of divine light and healing. Will you not surrender your need to be right and in control to my will that you be righteously controlled by the divine light of my love?
Copyright © 1995 by Iyanla Vanzant
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