Recently many of my friends, family and clients have experienced major life challenges. Serious illness, death of a loved one, relationship breakdowns, and huge life changes like retirement or menopause, have disrupted their lives and caused worry and stress. Most people would describe a year filled with those experiences as “a disaster” or “the worst year of my life”. But by changing your perception of the events you also change the manner in which you move through them and forward. The key is to find the gift in challenges.
A perception shift doesn’t change the painful process of grieving, or the difficulties associated with change. However by simply describing the experiences differently, as “a year of big changes” for instance, you change your perception of the events. This then allows you to recognise the gift within the experience. It allows you to find happiness again in spite of the pain.
This week the plaster cast around my broken arm will be removed, at last! Now a broken arm may seem slight in comparison to others’ problems. But it was pretty comprehensive and set at a weird angle which restricted me doing many things, including working, leaving me very frustrated.
So in meditation I asked for ‘the lesson in the broken arm’. Over a few days the message emerged. Embracing that message and working within that energy has given me great time and freedom for precious creative thought. It’s left me almost loving this problem! Happiness in spite of pain!
THE GIFT IN CHALLENGES
A problem free life is the impossible dream. There will always be difficulties to deal with no matter how successful or focused or spiritual you are. But the key to living happily is to look for the gift within all your problems.
The problems in our life are often just a signpost to let us know we need to reassess our life – our actions, beliefs, or attitudes. Often the appearance of problems marks a time when we need to let go of any parts of our life that are limiting us. These times provide us with an opportunity to surrender and open ourselves to unexpected experience through change. When we let go of our ego and surrender we can find peace.
Problems present two options. One option is that they can be stepping stones to uncover your gifts. The other is they can keep you locked into a cycle of fear. The choice is yours and the outcome depends upon how you decide to view the problem.
I spent a great deal of my life waiting for the time to arrive when I’d be ‘grown up’ and able to sail through life without many problems. I expected if problems DID occur in my life, I’d have the knowledge and resources to deal with them easily without a huge impact on me.
But not so! I’ve come to realise that the main gift of life is the chance to experience. Every day offers me new experience, even when I am doing the same mundane tasks I do day after day. In every minute there is the possibility of new insight, even while I’m doing little mundane things. And the understanding that comes with new insight always leads to new thoughts and new behaviour.
When I was in college my lecturer asked the class if we believed life followed an ever-upward trajectory, an oscillating wave or a circle. I was the only one who chose the circle. I was astonished when she said the circle links with a belief in reincarnation. At that time I hadn’t even considered my beliefs about reincarnation.
But now decades later I have shifted that perception of life. Now I believe it follows a spiral not a circle. We regularly revisit our problems and challenges but always at a different level of understanding and experience.
Each time the problem presents differently. It may be just slightly different to the last time. Or it may be so wildly new that at first we don’t recognize the underlying lesson and gift within are the same as those we’ve encountered before.
I’ve learnt that these opportunities recur over and over through our life until we finally recognise the gift they hold. It may be a hidden opportunity, new direction or a new understanding of a situation. It may simply be a reminder to focus and reassess our daily habits.
Sometimes the gift in challenges may not be apparent, requiring you to meditate or check in with your heart to identify it. Invariably if this happens there is a fear that needs to be acknowledged and released.
But most of the time the underlying lesson, or gift, is the reminder to value yourself and to reconnect with your own deep inner wisdom.
SHIFT OUT OF LIMITATION
When I surrender and let life flow, challenges and all, I move through and past the problem and forward in my life. I find that generally as I move out of this difficult state lots of other things that were a bit stagnant in my life also start to shift.
The challenges you face in your life can either be a stepping stone to discover your gifts or they can keep you stuck fast in the midst of your fears.
It all depends on how you respond. Problems can free you and allow you to reach your full potential or hold you within limitation.
Everyone has fears. It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re successful or not. But not everyone is able to let them go. Letting go of fear can actually cause more fears. Our inner child tries to keep us in a fear-filled state simply because it’s scared of any change. It wants to stay with what it knows, even if that keeps us stuck and unhappy.
The first step to let go of fear is to recognize and acknowledge it.
When you’re faced with a problem or challenge try to step outside the emotion instead of projecting forward to what may happen later.
Then switch on your awareness, step outside and observe. Ask yourself “what’s really going on here?” and “what is it I haven’t noticed in this situation?”
Then stop. Don’t let your thinking mind jump in with the ‘solution’. Stop and wait. Engage with your heart and allow the feelings and emotions to surface. This is when fear may surface.
Fears take may forms but underneath them all are a set of judgements and criticisms that follow familiar lines. They include “I’m not good enough”, “nobody will like me”, I’ll sound like a bitch, or stupid, or selfish,” or many other judgemental words. There are many others.
By stepping out of the emotion and watching with awareness and without judgement, you can observe the feeling that’s sitting underneath. That’s what maintains the fear.
HOW TO RELEASE FEAR
- The first step is to recognise it.
- Next you must own it. Allow yourself to feel the associated emotion without suppressing it.
- Then let it go. Detach yourself from the fear and stop talking about it. Stop thinking about it, obsessing about it, trying to find a solution.
Leave your fear behind and focus on your strengths instead. That simple shift in perspective can be all it takes.
Open yourself to whatever arrives in whatever form it comes. Don’t get fixed on a certain outcome or path. Often when you’re tightly focused on a particular outcome you miss out on even better options. Leave resistance behind and open up to ALL possibilities.
Remember life offers us the opportunity to grow through our experience. It throws us challenges to remind us to review and appreciate ourselves. But we must be open to receive the gift in challenges, and look within to find the courage and insight to rise to the challenge.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.