When hard times come, we’re often told to focus on gratitude and positive thoughts. Unfortunately, we’re not often told how to do that. As a result people tend to avoid thinking about things that bother them entirely, or try to chase those problems away and beat them down with a variety of spiritual practices. They suppress the negative in favour of the positive. Essentially: they enter denial.
Oddly, this doesn’t make their problems go away. Why not? If you’re filling your vision with wonderful things, shouldn’t more wonderful things come?
That is usually the case, but if something is bothering you, then it’s too late: that thing exists. It will continue to exist and continue to affect you whether you pay it any mind or not. In fact, if something is truly aggravating, denial only puts it in charge of all of the subconscious resources that govern your life. Denial empowers your problems.
The key is to not deny your hard times, but transcend them.
Transcendence comes from acceptance. One must accept, whole-heartedly, the difficulty one is enduring. That’s the first step.
The easiest and most effective way I’ve found to do this is to ask: “what is this here to teach me?” I don’t always expect an answer, although sometimes I get lucky and the answer is self-evident.
The key, though, is in the asking. By doing this you send love to the issue by acknowledging it for the gift it is. You are being taught something you couldn’t learn any other way, and you’re going to stay in this class until you’ve learned your lesson.
Knowing what that lesson is, specifically, doesn’t really matter. Trust that some day in retrospect you’ll understand the positive changes that occurred inside of you as a result. For now though, just accept that this is something necessary to help you grow. Be grateful for the pain as one might be grateful for a surgical procedure or a splint being set for a broken bone. You don’t have to enjoy it, mind you, but do ensure that you acknowledge that you are being healed and strengthened by it.
You’ll find you stop pushing your problem away now. Rather, you simply wait for it to pass, knowing that it won’t leave until the lesson has been integrated into your being.
At this point something interesting starts happening: by reflex, you allow healing that you were interfering with before. This hard time has wanted to pass for a long time, but it needed to do its work first. Now that you’re allowing it to improve you, the healing process is naturally accelerated and things can start moving again.
We can call this moment “transcendence”. From this place you’ll find it easy to put the suffering in context, without feeling like a victim or a helpless sufferer. These things are happening. They are making you better in a way you really aren’t supposed to understand yet. That’s okay.
Now, while I’m waiting, what else is there to do today?
And here we are; we’ve arrived. It is safe to search for positive and loving things to occupy yourself with while the hard time works itself out. The attention you would give your difficulty now can rest on the level of waiting at a bus stop. Keep your eyes open for the bus (the final solution, the problem passing, the moment of healing), but meanwhile trust that it is definitely coming eventually. The problem will pass, it is inevitable.
While you wait, occupy yourself with something good. This is your moment of transcendence; you fully acknowledge and accept the things that you don’t like, understand that it is temporary, a part of your learning process, and a tiny part of existence, and then spend your time exploring things that you do like. Soon, the things you do like will be the only things your life is filled with any more, and you can look back with gratitude for the lessons you were gifted with over time.
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