Inspired by a conversation we had one time, a friend once gave me a dish towel that says, “I meditate, I do yoga, I chant…and I still want to smack someone.”
Yup. I’ve been there. More than I care to admit.
I remember during one of my yoga teacher trainings a couple of years ago, one of the participants asked me why, even though she had been on a devoted spiritual path for decades, she still felt so beat up by life. Even with all of the yoga and meditation and other spiritual practices she engages in, life is still really hard sometimes.
I didn’t immediately have an answer for her because I have had the same question myself at times. With all of the focus on self-awareness, conscious choice and response-ability that I try to cultivate in my life, there are times when it’s still been very challenging. Overwhelmingly so.
So when she asked that question, for a moment I was stumped. And then suddenly I remembered a conversation I had with another friend several months prior. He was an avid gardener who would show up with these amazingly huge sweet potatoes. I mean they were more the size of a small pumpkin then a sweet potato. In all of my efforts to grow sweet potatoes up to that point, they never came out like that. They always ended up pretty puny-looking. Definitely nothing like the sweet potatoes his garden yielded. So I asked him, how do you get your sweet potatoes to be so big and hearty and healthy? And he said, “I don’t baby them. I rough them up. I trample through the vines…this makes them tough and strong and healthy…”
The message I took away from that was the more you challenge something, the more you strengthen it.
When times are tough, we are being given the opportunity to grow stronger . . . to become more resilient. So I think that our lives, not unlike those sweet potatoes, are challenging so that we can be strengthened in all of the ways that we most need it. When I think back on my life to those things that were the hardest to get through, those same experiences, in the long run, also offered the greatest gifts.
So the habit I am in, and the question I encourage my students to ask themselves often in difficult situations is, what is the gift of this?
If we are dealing with the loss of a job, what is the gift in this? The loss of a relationship, what is the gift in this? A troubling political, economical or environmental situation… what is the gift in this? I have noticed that, if I’m willing to look for it, there is almost always gold to be mined in any situation.
The other lesson here, for me anyway, is to remember to have a sense of humor about it all. Even when we are on a devoted spiritual path that doesn’t necessarily mean things get easier. It means we have the tools to hopefully navigate our way through the experience with as much grace and aplomb as possible. And yet sometimes we still muddle through kicking and screaming.
I’m reminded of the quote, “I never said it would be easy, I just said it would be worth it.”
We can support ourselves along the way on this awkward spiritual journey if we keep things in perspective, don’t take ourselves too seriously, and learn to find the funny wherever possible.
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And let the world be your playground.