August 25, 2010

Growth From Hardship: Peace or Practice.

Writer’s caveat: Let me preface this article by stating that in using the word ‘hardship’ I am referring to life’s daily struggles, which of course will vary from person to person. I am aware of and sensitive to the fact that we all view and handle pain and suffering in different ways. We also greatly vary in our exposure to hardships.

Distinct dichotomies often find their way in our lives in the form of labels. It is natural to categorize experiences, or entire days, as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When any event, experience or situation is labeled, it is limited and rendered impotent of the power to create impetus.

Dichotomies are generally opposing and contradictory forces. Self-imposed, restrictive choices of one or the other, black or white, forfeit the opportunity for being open to learning from that experience, whether positive, negative or any shade in between.

As we have all experienced, hardships in life induce a negative reaction thus eliciting a defensive response. When an event is labeled as ‘negative‘ or ‘bad‘, and defenses are heightened, then the natural response is to immediately regain our footing in status quo. We do whatever is necessary in the most efficient and quickest manner possible to get comfortable once again.

The desire to overcome hardships overrides the inherent growth opportunities within these experiences.

Changing the perspective by dropping the self-created dualistic, contradictory labels of ‘good’ / ‘bad’, ‘happy’ / ‘sad’, ‘enjoyable’ / ‘disagreeable’, one is then able to become open to developing learning opportunities to strengthen practices in patience, compassion and loving-kindness from these hardships.

“There is no external source of our suffering, pain, pleasure and happiness. Our experiences of the good, the bad and the ugly are the creations of our minds.”

– Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Instead of succumbing to the habit of labeling, I try to view daily life experiences as those that bring me peace within the moment or those that induce practice… and varying degrees in between.

Regardless of opinion, there is no judgement of like or dislike for the situation, as it holds no bearing on the experience itself. The choices are either mindfully basking in the moment of peace that presents itself or finding a catalyst for deepening a practice.  Both are conducive situations, and, unlike labels in binary opposition, these views work together towards a common goal – to foster personal happiness.

This perspective has the ability to completely transform one’s outlook and attitude towards issues that arise naturally in life. It instills a new found sense of wonder and excitement when tackling difficult times, as they become seen as opportunities rather than just bad experiences.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

As true peace comes only from within, so does this amazing ability to stay open to accepting growth opportunities from difficult situations. This approach fosters a more objective view of life which begins to disable those irrational emotions that cloud the beauty or growth opportunities inherent within the moment.

“The most profound way to relate to the realm of our emotions and the entire universe is to simply experience each moment as it is without concepts and labels.”

-Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

It is completely within our control whether to file away life’s experiences with judgement, or take the stimulus from this dream to learn, grow, appreciate, and awaken.

I wish you all peace and practice along your path stemming from the least amount of suffering and apathy, and thriving in the greatest amount of beauty and wonder.

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