We all face obstacles. Some are big and really painful. These past couple of years I’ve faced some biggies – loss of my business, numerous legal battles, a terrible accident in the family, severe financial challenges – all at once.
As I’ve worked through this adversity here is what I’ve come to see. The times that beat me up the worst were those when I ran head-on, in either fury or terror, trying to destroy the obstacles, to attack my attackers. I fixated on the obstacle, raged against the unfairness. I sacrificed my peace, my sleep, my hope to the problem. In essence I used myself as a battering ram.
The times the obstacles just rolled out of the way were those when I peeled my focus off the problem and turned inward to see what was really going on with me. That process wasn’t always pretty but the end result was stunningly beautiful. The more I plumbed the depths the more I realized how much I’d been missing. I’d worked and strived, planned, crossed things off the “Do” lists, all the while mostly asleep. When it came to the richest, deepest, most beautiful layers of life I’d been moving like when we wake up in a dark room and stumble and shuffle until reaching the light switch.
When we rage against the obstacles we give them more power. Instead of attacking we can began dancing, using each feint from the problematic partner to step into grace-filled new spaces within ourselves. As we detach we begin to see that the obstacle is not a beast setting its will to destroy us but rather, a happening, a process bumping up against us, like two branches in the same stream. We have options. We can feed the beast with attack and fear or we can dance and weave and flow toward truth.
Deep adversity provides a portal through which we can reach our inner light switch. Once we flip it on we see the biggest obstacles we ever face are the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves and this mystical, mystifying human experience.
A few exercises for releasing limiting beliefs:
- Stop feeding the beast. It is essential to stop focusing on the problem you are struggling with. I’m not saying don’t deal with real issues. Yes, make the appointments, fill out the paperwork, find another income source, etc. What I am saying is don’t let the problem eat your entire life. Every single day find things to be grateful for. Deep adversity is a time for celebrating simple pleasures and noticing small goodnesses. The more you say thanks the more you will have to be thankful for.
- Choose again. There is a wonderful practice in a Course in Miracles that teaches that each time we find ourselves obsessing on the obstacle to just say, “choose again” and shift the thought to something positive. There were times when I had to do this hundred of times a day. I got better at it. It changed both the outcomes in and the quality of my life.
- Develop a presencing practice. One of the most powerful tools I’ve found for managing adversity is learning how to be fully present in the present moment. The simple fact is unless we train ourselves differently, most of us spend the bulk of our lives focused on the past or the future, often in fear. If you’re reading this book you’re likely dealing with some tough, even traumatic situation right now. There are probably a lot of unknowns, worry, angst. But ask yourself this, right now in this very moment, are you basically OK? Are you right now, under direct attack? In this very moment are you warm? Do you have shelter and food? Are you breathing? If you have time to read this sentence your answer is almost certainly yes! I highly recommend reading The Power of Now, by Eckert Tolle.
Navigating adversity and clearing out obstacles is every bit as much about managing our minds as it is managing our day to day affairs. Not only will this help you navigate trauma more gently, it will add all sorts of collateral beauty and richness to the good times.
P.S. yep that is me dancing! That was before the big adversity and yes, John and I are still together and still dancing post trauma — both the tune and the choreography are richer now.