Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What I've learnt about facing challenges

You can overcome your mountains and life can be beautiful
again .. like this picture in Hallstatt, Austria.
How many of you are familiar with this scenario .. You think you're making progress, you have a breakthrough or epiphany, it looks like things are going in the right direction, and then, bam! Things come your way such as:
- An issue that you thought you'd dealt with or hadn't faced for a while comes back with intensity.
- You feel isolated due to finances and not having many close friends.
- You feel like you're never going to get to where you want to or that your challenges are too much.

Suddenly, you get to a place where certain things you have learnt along the journey become even more important - where you need to practice what you preach. Here's my experience ..

Let me make one thing clear - I do not enjoy dealing with any sort of challenging situation or emotional or physical pain. Emotional pain is a biatch. I've been through more than enough in my lifetime as it is, and I'm definitely at a point where I think it would be nice if things started to get a little easier. Lots of people will feel this way - the human mind is programmed to run towards pleasure and run away from pain. Generally speaking, at least in the UK, the general mode of being is to run away from and fight pain - the excessive use of anti depressants is evidence of this. But, as Rupert Spira says in this video (starting just before 9 minutes in) - 'Suffering is born out of resistance. By going to war with it, you are piling one resistance on top of an already existing resistance, you are compounding the problem, compounding the suffering by trying to get rid of it .. All the conventional means of getting rid of suffering don't work, they just at best temporarily alleviate it, but sadly perpetuate it.' 

We all know that the war on drugs, the war on cancer, the war on terrorism has only produced more problems - cancer rates haven't exactly decreased. Our minds think that fighting against a perceived problem is the way to get rid of it - and maybe it seems logical that it should happen that way - but, regardless, it just doesn't work that way. Another reason why we fight pain is because we are scared it will overwhelm us and push us over the edge unless we resist it. Now, let's get a bit of perspective here. For those of us who have been through really intense emotional pain, this is entirely understandable. And sometimes it is probably necessary to consciously push pain away before it gets too much.

But the important thing to realise is that it's not necessarily the situation itself or the suffering itself that is the issue, but the meaning that you give to it. When you are in any sort of pain, the mind will tell you 'This shouldn't be happening, this is terrible, I don't deserve this, I must have been a murderer in my past life to be punished like this (been there)'. It is not far off impossible to be truly present when your emotions are running wild, and emotions can really take you over if you are not careful. Observing emotions and feelings without attaching too much meaning to them is, for me, one of the keys in facing challenging situations.

The other thing I've learnt is not to identify with the mind. Ok, I still do identify with it - it can take time for things to change when you're used to being a particular way your entire life - but I definitely agree that Descartes made a mistake when he pinned the famous quote 'I think, therefore I am.' There's little doubt that over thinking is the cause of many a problem. We can't necessarily stop thinking - but what we can do is stop attaching so much meaning to our thoughts and stop believing that our thoughts and opinions are who we are. Yes, we all have our own tastes of what we like and prefer - for example I like football - but problems arise when we make a big thing out of our likes and dislikes, and judge either ourselves or others for it. Thinking that other people should be like us is a big reason why the world is such a mess today. Most of our thought patterns are not something we were born with, but were learnt mainly in childhood. Positive beliefs that make us feel good - that are born out of peace, love or joy - they are our true essence. The beliefs and thoughts that cause us to feel miserable are not really who we are. That's not to say that it's wise to completely ignore these things - we have to face our demons in order to truly move forward and be free. But it is possible for us to get through whatever challenges we may face.

More to come on this topic perhaps, but for the next month, I'll be focusing on the A to Z Blog Challenge, which I talked about recently. Each blog post will have a one word title beginning with the appropriate letter of the alphabet. If there's any topics you'd like me to talk about, feel free to let me know .....

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