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Lessons from Facing Adversity

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.” - James Baldwin

This was the quote under the signature line in an email from one of my students. As I gazed at it, my heart leaped with joy. James Baldwin’s quote pretty much summarized my values; honesty, integrity, hard work, and direct communication. Facing our challenges is also the lesson that I teach during my 200-hour Mindfulness and Yoga training.

It seems so simple; if we don’t face our adversities, the problem shall remain. We may dig it under the carpet; we may pretend that all is good, but nothing changes until we face it directly and honestly. It is not comfortable; it just has to be done. And the sooner, the better, usually when we avoid difficulty, we try to soothe ourselves with stories of why and before we know it, we lose track of reality.

Nothing can be changed unless it is faced. Why is it that philosophers, religious leaders, writers, and phycologist for the past 3000 years have been hammering it away, but most of us are still not getting it?

Albert demonstrating how to face adversity

My goal with the 200-hour Mindfulness Training and with Spira Yoga Teaching Style is to awaken people through mindful introspection into bettering their life and the life of our society by teaching them to step into effective action. Meditation without action is merely running away from the problem.

The Bhagavad Gita (one of the many books that we read during the 200 training) has warned against idle self-centered overthinking. We live in a world as corporal beings; we must engage with the world through action and face our fears. In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna to face adversity and step into action, to live through the values of spiritual life, but face difficulty and take action. After meditation and introspection, we must PRACTICE these lessons and live our lives with the values that we learned through introspection. If there is no action, if we don’t live a VALUES-DRIVEN life, then meditation is self-indulgent mental masturbation. Oh no, did I say that loud? Yes, I did! Just making sure you are still paying attention. 😊We need meditation to center our spirit and intellect, to take time to be mindful, to calmly investigate, but the whole reason for the practice of meditation is to create value and positive change in our life, to practice stepping into values-driven-action. As Yoda said as well, “No try, do.”

Jump ahead 2000 years since the writing of the Bhagavad Gita, and you have Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D. Hayes is a psychologist and the originator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. In his book A Liberated Mind, he makes the point that for the human psyche, there can be no healing until AVOIDANCE BEHAVIOR is stopped. As long as a patient is avoiding, there can be easing of pain, but the problem will remain, and in a fertile opportunity, it will even get worse. Our mind heals through facing our challenges, stepping into action, and proving ourselves that we can survive. Does it sound familiar? Yes, that is basically the story of The Gita.

The necessity to meet challenges face to face continues in my newest book recommendation, Julie Orringer’s Invisible Bridge, a novel about a Jewish family living through the holocaust. It is a fantastic novel. If you are looking to bite into a book that is a page-turner, a book that can give you perspectives during a hard times, and strength to survive, go and read Invisible Bridge. The book is about survival, human spirit, and the need to engage with the world and step into action. Action, no matter how small, but to live is to act. In the Invisible Bridge, the guidance of one brother in the workcamp is focused on what one can do under the circumstances. However, small, but one must focus on what is possible and face the challenge. “Don’t talk back to the guards. Eat what they give you, no matter how bad it is, and always save some for later. Keep as clean as you can. Keep your feet dry….Don’t let yourself forget the life back home. Don’t forget that your term of service is finite.” Those who kept engaging with the world, facing every adversity even if it seemed impossible, had a better chance of surviving.

Life is one challenge after another. Karma on Earth is simply learning from one adversity so we can graduate to the next.

When we don’t face our difficulty, when we choose to avoid it because it is uncomfortable, we simply get presented with the same problem in a different situation. People and locations may change, but our problems will remain until we face the challenge.

Adversity is a wonderful teacher, and it is best handled with a sense of humor. This is why I often talk with my friend and co-teacher Brenda and laugh, “Oh, it is another f-ing growth opportunity!”

You gotta have fun with life.

Adversity is great;

  1. By facing our fears, we get stronger

  2. By facing difficulty, we acquire new skills

  3. By meeting a challenge we gain satisfaction and meaning in life

  4. By facing a problem, we find happiness

  5. By facing a challenge, you find freedom

  6. By facing adversity and working through communication challenges, you find true friends.

Adversity will filter your relationships. My grandma used to say; You will never know who your true friends are until your first fight or failure in life.” Wise woman.

Through Covid-19, I discovered some amazing new friends that I didn't even know I had. Amy, Krista, your little emails day after day help my spirit rise. My relationship with all of Spira’s teachers became so much more meaningful and deep.

I also discovered relationships that proved to be more superficial. But no bad feelings and no shut doors, we never know when we cross our ways again, and maybe at a later time, we are ready to grow together. But it is nice to have a light to tell us where we need to focus in life. And that is the gift of adversity.

The obstacle is the way, so next time you face a challenge, smile; it is just another f-ing growth opportunity that will also present to you deep and meaningful relationships.

In short, adversity is the root of happiness.


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