Pema Chodron wrote in her book When Things Fall Apart, “Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
The point is that both of these emotions can be present — sometimes at the very same moment — and we can still be okay. They’re just feelings and if we can know that both of them will pass and pass relatively quickly, then it can be somewhat easier to experience them. Getting hooked is what’s painful. Thinking that either gloriousness or wretchedness will last forever — that those feelings will never change — is what creates our suffering. Everything passes. When we notice this, we can feel more stable, not so tossed about by the seas of life.