Most recently I have been thinking a lot about taking times of struggle, suffering and uncertainty and using those experiences to become stronger. Easier said than done. For most of us, when things go awry, we tend to move to avoidance, distraction, numbing or minimizing. We are a culture that focuses on feeling good, avoiding the bad. It would be lovely if most of our positive life experiences dominated more than the not-so-positive ones. It would be lovely if the positive life experiences were the only ones that helped us to grow and learn. And of course they do. But in reality while none of us would choose times of darkness, uncertainty and fear, these experiences are rich in the capacity to make us stronger, more compassionate toward ourselves and others, grateful for our lives, more open-hearted. The key is in embracing the experience, no matter how afraid one is and looking for the potential for transformation.
Transformation is such a powerful word. I personally like it…. a lot! The word contains hope and a sense of possibility. It tells me that no matter what is happening in my life, I can choose to use the current circumstances to transform myself into a stronger, more aware, more alive person. The idea of transforming is comforting; it offers new meaning in times of stress, fear and darkness. By embracing and acknowledging our current circumstances, what was once seen as something to avoid becomes an experience to enrich our lives. If, when we are in pain, we can be curious and look deeply at our responses to our circumstances we have an opportunity to awaken to new ways of being. We can discover things we may have been missing in our lives. We can begin to make changes within ourselves, our relationships and our lives that bring a greater sense of peace and acceptance. Most of all, we can learn to trust our innate strength and wisdom. We can handle our challenges. We have courage. We are resilient.
Tara Brach uses the following meditative thought in times of darkness:
“May these circumstances serve to awaken my heart and mind.” She doesn’t qualify her meditation with “May I only have positive, peaceful experiences in my life” or ” May the good dominate and the bad go away”. No, instead she practices approaching all circumstances, the good, the bad and the ugly, with the same curiosity and openness. With an open heart and mind, we can expect any circumstance to have the same outcome: awakening, opening, learning, strengthening.
Whatever life brings us, if we do not judge it as good vs. bad, if we do not clamp our eyes shut and hope for it all to pass, if we remain awake, aware, and curious we have an opportunity for tremendous growth. Our lives hold the seeds of transformation.
What current experience holds the potential of transformation for you? My hope is that you will reflect deeply on your life, your response and choose transformation.