Article written for SIGNews publication March 2011.
The Gift of Challenge
An astute and dear friend of mine recently brought it to my attention that my articles often reflect teachings or lessons that are present in my life. I must admit, there is certainly truth in that observation and considering the challenging month I have had, then this article will have to contain my recent reflections and study about the "Gift of Challenges." smile
As we live life, we inevitably will experience challenges and situations that present us with an opportunity to heal or simply shut down and tune out. Maybe you have a demanding boss that you cannot tolerate or a co-worker that gets on your nerves. Perhaps your spouse frustrates you, your children don't listen to you or family members constantly irritate you. Or what about life situations where parts of your not-so-nice-personality surface... and at the most inopportune times and in unpleasant ways?
Let's face it... life is tough. That is, if you are not clear about the purpose of life and the reason for the challenges. Yoga philosophy teaches us that challenges are present in our life because of past karma and act as a catalyst for you to move closer to Wholeness, or your True Nature. The ancient yogis tell us that every challenge is really a door opening to a deeper understanding of the Divine.
Challenges are like flashlights that illumine the very part of you that is still living in separation, feeling disconnected from the Whole, from Divinity. But as we have discussed in many of these articles, even the thought or idea that we are separate from the Divine is an illusion. You are never separate from the Whole. It is the ego that creates the wrong thinking of such an existence. It is in this wrong thinking that you become lost in the body, senses, mind and ego. You begin to identify with these more than the radiant, ever-present, united Divine Self.
Challenges are the essence of Grace. They are the hand of God moving you towards lasting peace and happiness. Challenges are the voice of those dark places within your being that are begging for the Light... begging for forgiveness, healing, acceptance, compassion and love. Challenges are like children crying out to their mother, seeking solace and comfort from past pains and miseries. They are spiritual gifts along the road of evolution.
The more that you can embrace your challenges, the more intimate of a relationship you establish with your Self and Divinity. You begin to be more optimistic in your life. Daily stresses seem to wash over you with little to no impact. Your life becomes more united, more whole and more loving. You can embrace the One Spirit that resides in all who "press your buttons." You can let go much more easily.
The focus this month is to learn to gently embrace your challenges, like a mother embraces her child. Hold them gently close to you, with a compassionate heart. See their teachings and begin to investigate their presence in your life. Give gratitude for them and to the people who bring them to you, for they are your teachers.
You are so much stronger than your mind tells you. Do not listen to the woes of the mind. Remember who you are, the Immortal Atman! Stand strong in the face of challenges. Grab them by the horns and bravely stare them down like a matador confidently holding a red cape in front of a raging bull. There is Grace in that fearlessness... and teachings that will heal your heart and unite you with the ever-present joy that is the very essence of life.
Thrive in your challenges beloved and remember to embrace them with love, understanding and patience. Om Tat Sat.