Today, while in a spin class, the instructor told us there’d be a few times during class when we’d feel like we’re going to die.
It’s indoor, hot room spinning and one of the hardest forms of exercise I’ve done.
She told us that although we’ll feel like we’re going to die, we probably won’t. She also told us it’s during the most difficult times in class when we’re developing the most strength. Each of the challenging parts in our ride will help us become stronger, and the process will prepare us for the next.
What she said made me think about life. How most of our day-to-day challenges don’t necessarily kill us, but make us stronger.
In spinning, if I don’t experience a challenge and work through it, I don’t get a good workout. I don’t sweat as much and my body doesn’t reap the rewards of good exercise. When I embrace the challenging times and look at the process as a means of transformation, they become the most important part of the entire ride.
Recently, I’ve been met with some challenges in my life. Challenges that a few years ago would’ve set me back and fed my story.
For a long time, I didn’t think life was fair. I used to look at other people’s lives and think they had it all figured out. I felt like if life handed out instructions for how to live, I never got the memo.
I was telling a friend at dinner tonight how the world teaches us that challenges are bad and to try and avoid them at all cost. And if we do experience a challenge, it must be because we did something wrong to attract it into our life. I used to view challenges as a form of punishment. Not only did the challenge cause me pain, but the guilt from having co-created the challenge often hurt more.
The truth is, the challenges we face in life often bear gifts and help connect us to our purpose. Usually, when we’re faced with a challenge, we only see its obstacles and try to quickly figure out how not to have them.
The process through which we overcome a challenge is where the gifts of transformation lie. How we handle challenges can determine our level of personal and spiritual fulfillment.
Each of us has specific work our soul came here to do. When we transform our reactive nature and do the inner healing work, we reveal light in the world. The degree to which we are working on our personal and spiritual transformation is the degree to which we reveal light and live our purpose.
Without challenges, how can we transform?
One of my friends asked me recently about faith and what it means to have faith the size of a mustard seed. They were telling me about their experience growing up with religion and wondered about the purpose of having faith in a world full of challenges.
Shifting our perception of what challenges mean for us can expand our capacity to grow and have faith in a supportive universe.
Growing up religiously myself, I learned faith came in sizes, and if we had faith, even the tiniest bit, we could somehow influence that for which we prayed and basically convince God to grant our request. We could live a life free from challenges.
This way of thinking is flawed and makes us bad or good, depending on the outcome of a situation. If we pray and the outcome is what we prayed for, then our faith was strong enough. If we pray and it doesn’t result in the outcome we desired, then it’s our fault—we must not have had enough faith.
I told my friend, “Having faith the size of a mustard seed is to say our faith, like a seed, grows depending on how well it’s tended to. It doesn’t mean we influence what we pray for depending on whether our faith can be weighed on a scale. It means we’re able to peacefully let go of what we think is the best outcome and know in our hearts we’ll be okay.”
I recently read an article that said, “The capacity to trust and so live with inner peace, contentment, and joy is a Divinely-endowed capacity written into the genetic code of your DNA.” If we nurture and tend to our faith, over time, it does grow. And whatever happens in our life, regardless of the challenge, we know and trust, there’s a much bigger plan at play.
We aren’t good or bad and either is the outcome. Whatever unfolds, we have faith it’s for the highest good.
This doesn’t discount the pain we experience during a difficult challenge. Challenges can be overwhelming, especially when they involve health, addiction, or loss of a loved one. What it does do is give us an expanded view from which to see a challenge and embrace the fullness of life. When we look at our lives linearly from now until the end, we see challenges as inconvenient or bad. If we imagine standing at the end of our lives and look backward, we’d be more open to receive the gift each challenge can give.
When I look back on my own life, it’s been the most painful experiences that have blessed me the most. A principle from which I base my life today is: the greater the challenge, the greater the blessing.
Now, when I’m faced with a challenge, I purposefully begin to look for its gift. Honoring our pain, as well as our process, while remaining open to receive its gift, can help a challenge strengthen our faith.
We don’t need to experience challenges to arrive at our purpose. When we can find purpose in our challenges, though, we create transformation.