These are undoubtedly troubled times.
A pandemic combined with social unrest, unsavory politics, and extreme weather — the personal turmoil seems acute because we’re all going through this at the same time. But the truth is, even without a pandemic, life is filled with challenging times. And I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing.
As I look back on my life over the last decades, I see that the most painful times were the ones that led me to grow, and change, and deepen my whole approach to life. The moments of tearfully wondering, why is this happening to me? pushed me to look for new solutions and ways of being. I say, new, but it was more like the despair of not knowing what else to do forced me to stop ignoring the answers I already had deep inside.
Troubled times sent me to yoga and meditation to find peace and comfort. Painful situations motivated me to release resentments, develop my independence, have greater respect for my heartfelt beliefs, and eat more vegetables. These aren’t bad things.
Of course, if you had asked me at the time, I didn’t want these changes. It’s only in hindsight that I see how much I needed them.
Our lives are filled with concerns that don’t matter very much in the greater scheme of things. This season’s fashion trends, the stock market, celebrities — the outer world serves as a great distraction from the inner. The “bad” times often help to redirect our focus to the things we know in our hearts really matter.
It’s not that life is inherently painful or punishing; it simply flows like a river in the direction of growth and change. The problem is that we stubbornly refuse to move with it. We like to stay just as we are.
Yes, I hear the little voice telling me a regular meditation practice would be good for me. Yes, I know I should probably listen, but it seems hard, and I’m not sure I want to be a meditation person, and I’m much too busy this week. No, thank you, no change for me today.
But eventually the river breaks down everything that stands against it. Even dams develop cracks.
These days, I try to be more pliable. My thought is that if I can flow with the river, it won’t need to push on me quite so hard. Time will tell.
My wish for us all is that someday we’ll look back on these pandemic years and find that deep and significant change came from them. I hope that one day, after the pain and turmoil have settled, we’ll be able to see this time as a gift.