“Keep your chin up” and “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” are popular proverbial phrases to inspire positivity in the face of adversity. While looking for the silver lining may uncover the bright side, it can also feel like an added burden to an already demanding situation. Hard times are unavoidable in life, and how we handle them reveals a deeper layer of who we are and what we care about most. If we are too busy groping for our rose-colored glasses, we’ll miss out on the opportunity to learn how to see our shadows from a genuinely more enlightened perspective. Challenging situations take us beyond our comfort zone and trigger fears and anxieties but also have the power to become moments of truth. In this light, challenges can be the ultimate muses for introspection, offering powerful lessons about ourselves.
When obstacles arise, we receive a wake-up call and an immediate need for self-evaluation. To understand the heart of the matter means to witness how your thoughts manifest as feelings in the body. Initiate an inner conversation with your body in order to acknowledge what the challenge is showing you. Feel into your thoughts by scanning the body systematically to observe how your attitude plays out as physical sensations in places like your feet, legs, hips, heart, etc. This gives you an honest present moment assessment of where and how the information is literally moving through you. Focus in on the places in your bones, muscles, and viscera that grip, clench, or lock down in response to your thoughts. Both the places that block and the places that take the hit offer equally valid information about your vulnerabilities.
It’s important to name the details and themes that are most challenging in order to sort through the issues, ask better questions, and fully appreciate the life lessons to be learned. When confronted by trials and tribulations, go inward, evaluate reactivity patterns, and develop a game plan for decision making and self-care. Instead of asking “why me?” for example, ask “why now?” Allow this bold inquiry to lead you to the brave realization that on some level, you are ready for the insight in store. This level of trust in yourself and the universe requires courage, surrender, and a higher level of acceptance. This profound acceptance transcends positivity and faces reality head-on with an open heart and a beginner’s mind. Identifying the themes that pose challenges for you will open the possibility of knowing what you’ll need to receive in order to face these obstacles with more clarity and courage. Now, the real silver lining is that you have an opportunity to re-pattern your responses to the challenges and actively rewrite how your story unfolds.
- Seek out mentors. Actively research victory stories. Look to triumphant people who have overcome obstacles in a style that inspires you. If humankind falls short, then look toward nature. Seek out mentors in the trees, water, plants, wind, and moon, or wherever the elements model the themes that nourish your heart and bolster faith in the mysterious flow of life all around.
- Move yourself. Get out of your head by moving the body. Distract yourself on purpose by actively engaging in vigorous exercise (if only for a few minutes) or simply change your position. Feel yourself mobilize, listen to the rhythm of your breath, and know that you are fully alive, strong and whole. Celebrate the flesh, and sweat out the physical and emotional toxins.
- Take a nap. Avoid the tendency to do more. Remember “The Way” according to the ancient Taoist Master, Lao Tzu, who promises “action is born of stillness.” Get quiet. Create a nurturing environment with your favorite cozy things, relaxing music and smells, hunker down and will yourself to sleep. Set a timer for twenty to forty-five minutes and invite day dreaming. Tap into your imagination without any expectations for some quick-fix solution and open to your intuitive wisdom that will guide your best decisions.