Understanding Life’s Challenges—When “Bad” Things Happen

In the course of anyone’s lifetime, “bad” things are guaranteed to happen. Yet there is nothing wrong with these “bad” things---nor is there anything "right" about them either. They simply happen.  They are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong, and human judgment, as always, is best left out of the equation.  It  is much more useful and accurate to see these events as challenges.  Challenges, in all sizes, shapes and forms, are essential to an evolving life; they are essential to a spiritual life; they are essential to our journey here on earth, and they are not going away.

Nor are we “bad” because something challenging crosses our path. We do not need to blame ourselves. Challenges sometimes come in the form of consequences, but they are not punishments hurled at us from above because we are bad.  We need to do away with this myth, as well as the myth that “bad things should only happen to bad people”; or “life is wrong when bad things happen to good people”.  Challenges cross everyone's path.

Instead of fighting challenges and wishing they would go away so our life can be pain-free, we can stop resisting creation and allow challenges to evolve us. That's their purpose. All challenges are opportunities for us to grow; they are opportunities for us to take our power back from what we are afraid of; opportunities for us to become powerful and authentic and find out who we really are. But the journey is never pain-free.

Challenges enable us to become powerful because they automatically trigger our deepest issues and force us to face our fears or what it is in us that needs to change.  Notice that one of the first things you do when such a challenge occurs is to go into a story about what happened and even what the future will be like.  Your mind creates a story loaded with your own personal, fear-based distortions that have always colored your world. Challenges magnify your story, and so give you the opportunity to recognize what your story is, see your distorted thinking, and free yourself from it. It is only by changing our perceptions, behavior, and choices that we can move forward fearlessly in the direction of our dreams. It is our fear-based thinking that holds us back from living a life that we love, and challenges are what give us the opportunity to confront and change that thinking.

We can’t change or control what happens to us, or the challenges that we may encounter ahead. But we can pay attention to how we respond to them. Meeting challenges responsibly is hard work. Challenges show us what spiritual homework we still need to do; they show us where we are at spiritually and what piece of our thinking and behavior is up for transformation right now. When a challenge hits us, we need to take our attention off why it happened, and focus on what now? We need to put our full attention on ourselves, what we are feeling and thinking, and take good care of ourselves.

Once we are paying attention, we will begin to notice what our mind is up to.  What are we making up? What are the facts? Are we resisting what has already happened? Are we slipping into our conditioning to blame or feel outrage, or to feel shame, guilt or self-pity? If so, then we have left the present moment and are caught in our story. Or, instead, are we able to feel the authentic human pain emotions of grief, anger, and confusion without making up a story? In other words, can we use this challenge to learn how to grieve without going into pity or self-pity? Can we feel our authentic anger at the human journey without going into outrage, self-righteousness or blame? Can we accept there is much we will never know about the human journey, and feel our confusion without going into shame or guilt? We will need to remind ourselves again and again that we are not our thoughts.

Challenges provide us with the opportunity to notice what our mind is trying to hook us with.  They provide us with the opportunity to choose differently, to act with greater self-awareness, to respond responsibly and with greater consideration. If we allow the challenge to evolve us and consider it our teacher, each challenge will teach us how to navigate through life with greater ease and grace.  Just remember, pain-free is not applicable to the human journey, but ease is. Through our response to challenges, we can evolve our thinking and thus evolve the way we respond to life and the way we use our spiritual energy.   It always starts with first observing what our mind is making up. It will be hard in many cases to let go of the story our mind spins, but once we are willing to be more self-aware, then we are in a position to change our thinking, evolve our perspective, and use our energy more responsibly.

The only things we can really control and change in this life are our own perceptions, behavior, and choices. The fact is, that’s enough. That’s our ticket into creating a life we love, and challenges provide the ride that will take us there.

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