Where or what is Hell? Religions tell us that it is a place of great suffering where we will go as punishment for our sins.
My experience is that it’s between our ears, and we go there every time we wish life were different.
I have had two death experiences, and I found that there is no Hell. Yet, we’ve all been there.
Just like Dante’s Inferno, there are many levels of this hell. Grief, loss, poverty, public ridicule, illness, abuse by a loved one, the criminal justice system, betrayal and regret are just a few of them. Each person has their own version. Sometimes one person’s hell is another person’s heaven; the street beggars of India might love to be a street beggar in NYC. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Based on my vacations to Hell, here are some guidelines for how to survive a trip and return new and improved. Yup, it’s possible Dorothy. Each one can be used by itself, or in conjunction with the others.
I have great compassion for those going through such traumatic times that they can’t breathe or sleep. Been there, done that more than once, hence my sharing my personal lessons. If you use these practices, your return from Hell could be easier and quicker, and you may return with some great photos for Instagram and Pinterest.
1) What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
When we go through trying times, we are exercising parts of our psyche that may be weak or need strength. Sometimes life has brutal ways of making us stronger. Sometimes even a superficial wound like a broken love affair can make us want to lie down and die. I assure you, better and more exciting times are ahead; we just have to be strong enough to weather the storm. Winston Churchill once said during the German bombing of London, “When you find yourself in hell, keep walking.” So, the first step is to keep breathing.
2) This too shall pass.
Sometimes we have to resolve ourselves to outlive our challenges and problems. No matter how bad things get, remember that the current difficulties will pass. Everything changes; use this knowledge to your advantage. We only make things worse when we don’t want things to change. Fear of the unknown makes us hold on to the pain that we know, but change is the one constant thing in life. We can either swim upstream, or we can float downstream. Life is like a pendulum that swings between the two polarities of pain and pleasure. Just relax and enjoy the ride. You will always be swinging.
3) You are a survivor.
You’ve survived tough times and challenges, over and over. Remind yourself that you’re an experienced problem solver: Remember, you’ve already survived 100 percent of the things that you thought were going to kill you. And while you’re at it, remind yourself that you are a fighter. You overcome; you don’t give up. Have faith, and trust that your “higher power” will lead you through.
4) The worst won’t happen.
“Ninety percent of what we worry about doesn’t happen.” While you may feel overwhelmed by life’s twists and turns and the intensity of the current situation, try to take each moment one at a time. When we experience trauma, we immediately go into the future and stress about what we are going to do tomorrow, six months from now or years from now. Cancel any thoughts about the future while you are stressed. Calm down, breathe and remember that you are stronger than you know and braver than you think (thanks, Winnie the Pooh).
5) Release expectations and control.
Often, we deal with so much anxiety not because of what’s happening, but because it’s not happening as we want. We grow up having certain expectations about our life; we demand certain consequences and results. We provide the timelines on when we want these things. Life doesn’t care about our every wish and command, or our timeline. The more we can learn to let go of our expectations about circumstances, the freer and less stressed we’ll feel. Take a few days off from running the universe, and see what happens. I suspect the world will keep turning. Stop the expectations, and enjoy what you get—every last morsel of it.
6) Learn the lesson.
Life is simply a series of experiences. You may not be able to do anything with your current circumstances right now, but you will be able to reflect and learn from what’s happening in your life later on. When you understand the true point of the original experience, you will be able to use that wisdom to improve your life and the life of your loved ones. It is when you are in denial and resist the lesson that things get worse. Life is a classroom; imagine that it’s preparing you for a doctorate in living better than you could have ever dreamed.
7) It always gets better.
Life is a pendulum swinging between pleasure and pain. When things get bad, or terrible, rest assured that it can’t continue this way. Remember, things always change. Stay hopeful and optimistic that your situation is about to change for the better. It will. If you find yourself in a grave, quit digging.
8) It is a gift.
When we are going through hell, it is hard to be grateful for the experience. But the only way we can learn and grow is to recognize that we are never given more than we can handle and growth is often painful. The more we fail and stumble, the more growth and insight we have. Success will follow tragedy, if we accept the gift and learn the lesson. If the fall was hard and painful, your bounce back should take you to whole new heights. Setbacks aren’t always what they seem.
I have had numerous ups and downs in my life. I was a multimillionaire, then I lost my fortune through bad investments. I have been divorced twice. I have seen my son in ICU four times. I was the top advisor of a spiritual organization, and was told to leave without warning nor provocation. I have had dozens of romantic relationships that ended in heartbreak.
Seriously, all I can do now is laugh in the face of life; my track record would have you think that I enjoy being in Hell, right? But the highest truth is there is no Hell; there is only life, and I’ve survived 100 percent of my worst days.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Thomas Kelley/Unsplash