Life can be messy and difficult, but that is also what makes it beautiful.
“Suffering is not caused by pain but by resisting pain.” – Unknown
As a young boy, I was socialized that is not good to cry. Crying symbolized a sign of weakness and inferiority. Last year, this all changed when I found myself in a place between depression and helplessness.
I was diagnosed with a serious health condition, and everything in my life came to a screeching halt. Immediately, I dropped my job, left the city I was in, returned to my hometown and moved back in with my parents. To top it off, just a week prior to this, I had a significant relationship with a girl I could see a future with, come to a crushing end.
Sometimes, when it rains, it pours.
At my parents’ house, I spent the first month alone, sitting in my living room, reading and journaling. I read books about spirituality and tried to keep myself collected. Despite my efforts, I spent a lot of time reflecting on and analyzing the past.
Leaving my group of friends and being at home at my parents was not a part of my plan. Being sick was not something that should have happened to me since I was so healthy. Losing the most significant connection I’ve ever had with a girl was not something I had ever expected.
It’s amazing how much the mind can fall into negative thought patterns and chew on problems if you let it.
Prior to all of this, I was the type of guy who everyone said was inspiring and seemed to have it all together. I had just finished graduate school, had a long list of accomplishments I was proud of, and was known to live my life to the fullest.
I fought with my mind as it toiled over these nagging thoughts and how great things used to be. I wallowed in my woes, kept resisting the course my life had taken, and ruminated in negativity. Eventually, I realized that I was creating my own suffering by not accepting things as they are.
I was making myself a victim.
After a few weeks, I reached a place of acceptance. After a few months, my health got better and now I’m almost back to normal.
Whether it is dealing with the death of a loved one, dealing with unexpected challenges, letting go of someone or something, here is what has helped me approach life’s challenges:
1. Don’t replay the past.
They say our minds are attracted to negative thoughts way more easily than positive thoughts. Knowing this, don’t let your mind chew on your problems and mull over the past. When we focus on the problems and hardships we experience, we are giving them power over us. It is putting responsibility outside of our self instead of realizing that we have the ability to shape our present moment any way we choose and that we can always choose paths to our happiness.
2. Challenge your interpretation
Far too often, we blame others or situations for how it made us feel. Reality is the way it is, but it is our interpretations which influence our reactions. Then, if reality is just perception, should we not ask whether there are other ways of perceiving the situation, or perhaps, whether someone else would perceive this situation or respond differently? Seeing possibilities for other ways of reacting to our interpretations of situations, changes the interpretations themselves, and can thereby change our reality.
3. Create time and space for awareness.
Every challenge and situation is an opportunity to grow and learn. My health issue forced me to slow down, and gave me time and space to re-evaluate what I want. This has led to transforming my life so that health is a main priority. It also made me realize that I was chasing a definition of success that was not my own, and has awakened me to what really matters in my life.
A friend of mine, Matt Tod, beautifully once said that with Awareness, comes the ability to make Choices, to bring about Change.
If we accept the challenges and trials of life, and create time and space to foster awareness, I believe that anything we face can be viewed through this lens as a tool for personal transformation.
4. Know you’re not alone
When you’re ready, lean on others whom you trust to listen to you without judgment or a long list of what you “should” do in your situation.
There are people who love you no matter what, and want to be there for you. Be vulnerable and let them in. When I stopped isolating myself and finally shared my story, people’s responses were overwhelming. People told me why they loved me, sent me positive energy from afar, and made my heart warm.
Know that many of the people around you are struggling with one of life’s many problems. Share your pain. Tell them your story. Listen to them. Lend a shoulder to lean on. Share a smile. Supporting one another to fulfill our individual and collective potential is why we are all here.
5. Practice Gratitude
After reaching the point of acceptance, I suddenly began to appreciate every small to big thing; especially those that I would otherwise let go unnoticed or take for granted. Practicing gratitude brings your minds attention to all that is around you at this very moment and makes you present.
Going through the sadness and pain in life, allows you to appreciate the beauty even more. You realize how fragile life is. You can lose your health, loved ones can pass away, or life can deal you an unfair hand at anytime. Having your health and the right to be alive is a privilege and blessing.
Feel life. Share in love. Embrace each moment.