The Best Way Out

One of my favorite quotes from Rumi is, “The best way out is through.” When I first read it, I liked it, but all I could do was ponder it. It seemed to hit a resonant chord with me, and I could feel some deep truth buried within it, but what exactly did it mean?

I didn’t get any great clarity or brilliant insight about that question immediately so I simply tucked it away for another day… maybe one with a little more caffeine in the morning? I’ve found that when I articulate a question like that one, publicly or privately, life has a way of answering. And after a series of recent events, I believe I finally have my answer.

Effectively the equivalent of the saying, “Experience is the best teacher,” it means growth, strength, and skills are not gained by taking shortcuts or bailing out. I’ve found it to be true that life will keep handing us the lessons we need to learn until we learn them and move up to the next level. I interpret the quote to mean that when faced with a challenge (in the form of a person, circumstance, or daunting task), we have a couple choices:  1) We can ignore it, give up the fight completely and feel defeated, find ways to avoid dealing with it, look for ways to cope with it, lash out against the unfairness of it and become a powerless victim, or …. 2) we can embrace and engage with it, wrestle and deal with it, reframe it, find the learning and inherent gifts and decide to grow wiser and better from it. And hopefully, as a result, not have to wrestle with that particular one again.

The best way out is through because the learning is in the struggle. The gain is in the push. The glory is in the eventual triumph. Rumi’s quote is a reminder that, even though the struggle may initially feel bad, it’s actually the catalyst for our desire for something more, something different, or something to change. This is the essence of our life-force flowing through us, strong and bright.

When we stop pushing toward something new, we begin to lose our vitality and personally diminish.  Our life-force slows and our world quickly starts to shrink.  We frequently see this happen in people who retire or are disabled and who begin to experience life without purpose, desire, a thirst for knowledge, or an interest in something new. 

Similarly, staying in the game when it’s a challenge causes us to want different things, think new thoughts, gain better understandings, and launch strong new desires. This is personal expansion. This is being and becoming fully alive. There isn’t a juicier, richer, more savory moment than the instant you learn the lesson, feel yourself open up, experience the “Aha!”, or walk through the back door of a dark journey and step out into the sun.

The best way out is through. Not the only way, but the best way.


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“The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive,
and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of struggle,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Helen Keller

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