When I was a small child and something made me sad, my mother used to sing me a sweet little song: Life has its Funny Little Ups and Downs.

At the time I just thought it sounded happy and would cheer me up, but I didn’t realize the inner significance of the song at such a young age.

Like music, life traces an undulating path of ups and downs, rises and falls, quiet notes and crescendos. Nothing stays the same because if it did, life and music would be pretty boring, and we wouldn’t grow. If every moment were the same, we couldn’t hear the melody or the rhythm of life.

So whatever is happening in your life right now, you can be assured that at some point it is going to change. The real trick is to outsmart the ups and downs so that they don’t take you by surprise and make you think they’re real or permanent. In one way, everything is an illusion here on Earth, because nothing physical lasts. These illusions teach us detachment and always lead us to God. Remaining calm and content whether up or down is the only way to ride the highs and lows:

If you can meet with triumph and disaster 

And treat those imposters just the same. – Rudyard Kipling from his poem, “If.”

It’s best not to get too excited or too depressed by the ups and downs of life. – The Dalai Lama.

The Baha’i teachings point out this deep wisdom in many different ways:

O Son of Man! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 16.

If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion. … the trials which beset our every step, all our sorrow, pain, shame and grief, are born in the world of matter; whereas the spiritual Kingdom never causes sadness. A man living with his thoughts in this Kingdom knows perpetual joy. The ills all flesh is heir to do not pass him by, but they only touch the surface of his life, the depths are calm and serene.

Today, humanity is bowed down with trouble, sorrow and grief, no one escapes; the world is wet with tears; but, thank God, the remedy is at our doors. Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 109-110.

One day while finding myself worrying and ruminating about something I thought was oh-so-important at the time, I stopped, hearing something familiar coming from the next room. My husband, an old movie junkie, was watching a classic film in the living room. As I came closer, my heart flooded with a warm rush. I didn’t know yet why, but as I approached nearer, I recognized sounds that were very familiar. I heard music and then a cheerful song.

Yes, you guessed right—it didn’t take long before I recognized that it was the very same song my mother had sung to me many years before, called “Life has its Funny Little Ups and Downs.”

I entered the living room to find an old Donald O’Conner movie, and sure enough–there was the song from my childhood! With a big lump in my throat and misty eyes I listened to the words with overwhelming emotion. Now I could understand its meaning! I realized that my mother, who at this point had passed on to the next world, was trying to teach me a wonderful secret—life is never stagnant.

We should take heart when we think things are going poorly, because there is no doubt that every temporary condition will pass. On the other hand, when all is well, we must prepare ourselves and gather our courage so that life’s next test doesn’t overwhelm us. In any case, being grateful and keeping a calm, strong inner core would serve us in all situations:

Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 329.

There is an ancient proverb from the medieval Levant that originated around 1200 AD; “This too shall pass.” It means that all material conditions are transient, whether good or bad. The only thing that is constant are the eternal conditions—love, truth, and all the virtues and blessings that come from God:

We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2nd Corinthians 4:16-18.

This physical life is so short, and as much as we hate it sometimes, change is inevitable. But change means growth, and after all, what are we here for if not to grow and flourish?

Today, I’m happy because I found the sweet little song my mother sang from my childhood.

Currently, the sun is shining and my world is bright and hopeful. I wonder, what unwanted difficulty or challenge will come next? When it comes, will I recollect that it is just an illusion, an opportunity to help me learn inner peace and detachment?

I’ll certainly try, and I’ll keep this song in my pocket to evoke for a rainy day and remember not to take myself too seriously—for only love is constant, and life has its funny little ups and downs.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

13 Comments

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  • Diane Samandi
    Dec 17, 2017
    Thank you for lifting my spirits. These quotes are ones that I will keep by my bedside. There is incredible wisdom and lighthearted joy woven together in this inspiriting article.
  • Dec 15, 2017
    Hilton and Azamat,
    Sometimes we are so depressed that nothing seems to work. If we can remember that no matter how lonely we feel, we are not alone. Connecting with others, especially in service is a powerful anti-depressant.
    Be not the slave of your moods, but their master. But if you are so angry, so depressed and so sore that your spirit cannot find deliverance and peace even in prayer, then quickly go and give some pleasure to someone lowly or sorrowful, or to a guilty or innocent sufferer! Sacrifice yourself, your talent, your time, your rest to another, to ...one who has to bear a heavier load than you — and your unhappy mood will dissolve into a blessed, contented submission to God.
    Abdu’l-Baha (Star of the West)
    I wish you peace <3
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  • Hilton McConnell
    Dec 15, 2017
    Kathy
    Thanks but some times no mater how hard I try and pray , sadness and loneliness just dose not go away. Have all the material and skills to get by on, But can not stop the hurt, friends keep passing on, and getting hurt, or ill . I all ways pray for others but things are getting so lonely that I started to pray for my self, I feel that is wrong to pray for my self instead of others but I can take only so much hurt. I no God dose not test any one beyond there limit, ...but feel he is pushing me to the limit, for some reason, hopefully will find out why soon.
    With Much Baha'i Love
    Hilton & Azamat
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    • Dec 15, 2017
      Dear Hilton and Azamat,
      I think we are supposed to pray for ourselves and that you should! In fact, Abdu'l-Baha said, in Baha'u'llah and the New Era, P. 93:
      Know thou, verily it is becoming in a weak one to supplicate to the Strong One, and it behooveth a seeker of bounty to beseech the Glorious Bountiful One. When one supplicates to his Lord, turns to Him and seeks bounty from His Ocean, this supplication brings light to his heart, illumination to his sight, life to his soul and exaltation to his being."
      also....
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Dec 12, 2017
    Our own Self-Realization is maybe the greatest service we can give to humanity. The peak and valley experiences are equally important in the expansion of our consciousness. The soul evolves from infinity to infinity and beyond. Sometimes we need to come down and rest in the valley, integrate our new experiences and take a deep breath before we go the next journey. Maybe we should redefine our valley experiences in a more positive and holistic way. The flow of life is dancing between the peaks and valleys. We can see this rhythmic and wave-like motion everywhere in the cosmos. Life ...is a spiralling energy, always unfolding to greater and greater degrees of perfection and divinity.
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  • Dec 11, 2017
    Great lesson, i'll try to remember the song too :-)
  • Melanie Black
    Dec 11, 2017
    I love the quotes and scriptures you chose for your article. They have served to remind me that the Kingdom of God is eternal and changeless, especially during times of difficulty. When I see people in other nations experiencing famine, injury, or disease because of war or political conflict, and I feel a bond of brotherhood or sisterhood just as much as I do with people from my own country, my empathy for them causes me distress. I don't know their fates, or whether they will ever be happy in this world. Knowing that God is the All-Compassionate gives me ...much comfort for I know that ultimately He is in control and He has a Plan. My personal motto is: everything is temporary. It's simple, but it works for me.
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    • Dec 11, 2017
      Thank you for your always insightful and kind comments dear Melanie <3
  • Dec 11, 2017
    Great reminder that everything passes away (save all that is of God) 🌹
    • Dec 11, 2017
      That’s beautiful Julia! Thank you dear. 💕🦋🌻