The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other hand and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I only have gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible. 

The above is a quote by Frances Ward Weller. It is truly one of the most remarkable quotes I’ve seen recently on Facebook. It was posted by my great friend Sue Schoning, who is always full of wisdom and she often makes me remember who I really am.  

I constantly talk about toxic positivity and toxic new age spirituality. This quote really demonstrates so succinctly what that means. Let’s look at the word saccharine, which is an adjective described as excessively sweet or sentimental. Don’t confuse sentimentality with caring. Sentimental means: having or arousing feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.

Sadly, the actual meaning of those two words have become the fundamental pretence of modern spirituality. Spirituality has indeed become self-indulgent, excessively sweet and overly judgmental. As it says in the quote above – if we don’t experience grief, then those who are on the toxic positivity trail will cover all the negative, or shadow emotions with this veneer of positivity. This means that they simply have not allowed themselves to feel the feelings that are actually present in their lives. 

We are not on earth to become perfect and raise our vibrational frequency, or learn to chant mantras. We are here to learn compassion in the midst of the chaos and the pain and the hardship. If we are on the toxic positivity trail, we will ignore our friends and family who are in the pits of despair by offering them platitudes like, keep smiling and stay positive. We are completely oblivious, and we have no idea how to be in the presence of somebody who is vulnerable, or in pain, or upset, or in mourning. 

We confuse this toxic positivity with high vibrational frequency and highly spiritual practice, when in fact, it is saccharine sentimentality. This saccharine sentimentality is precluding us from doing the true spiritual work, which is high levels of compassion, high levels of nurturing, high levels of cooperation, high levels of activity, and high levels of productivity, balanced with self-care, rest, joy and exuberance. 

Thank you, Sue, my darling friend, for posting this particular post today. It was really a call that went straight to my heart and a reminder of spirituality’s true purpose. That path that makes us stay present in this moment that we are in, wether this moment is fraught with danger, pain, joy, elation, anger, or whatever. Being spiritual is the ability to remain present in every circumstance and every occurrence and every event in our life and experience that event to the exclusion of all else.

We often bring past pain, or future anticipation into a current event or experience and this is what probably causes us the most discomfort or pain. Many masters teach us to stay absolutely in the moment. Let’s balance that being in the moment so that we feel what there is to feel in the moment and not plaster it over with saccharine sentimentality.