Either we’ve been there, are there or will be there: face-to-face with a life altering challenge. Whether it is illness, death, job-loss, financial hardship, divorce, identity crisis or anything else, we all know the stomach dropping sensation of when lightening strikes and it’s time to reckon with life. Not one of us is immune to these experiences and although that might make you feel like a doomsday cloud is hovering overhead, I want to propose some simple mindset shifts to support you now or in your next time of need.
Consider this: Our souls are consistently attempting to move towards health. Just as our physical bodies do their very best to achieve and maintain homeostasis as well as to evolve into greater levels of health, so do our souls.
This does not mean that if our souls are “healthy” we don’t face crisis, great challenge and difficulty in our lives, quite the contrary. Within every human there is an instinctual birthright to grow and evolve. Hardships, as well as celebratory and joyful life events, are the very material with which our souls learn, develop and progress. In the process of facing rejection, loss, disappointment and insecurity we are all gifted with the fertile opportunity to become more intimate with ourselves, the people around us, and life itself. When the going gets rough, however, almost all of us will begin to clamp down, retract and resist whatever we dislike, breaks our heart or feels unexplainable.
Although these are very natural and intelligent instincts, ultimately they insulate us from some of the most potent and opportune insights that have the potential to completely transform our lives.
As the legendary Carl Jung writes, “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” This does not mean that someone dear to you passing was “meant to be” or that you should “find the silver lining” in a horrific tragedy. In fact, both of these cultural norms are impulses that actually perpetuate a numbing to the very nature of human life. Instead, Jung’s words invite us to dig deeper, to go within and to ask for the support and understanding that we need to unearth the secret order that is beneath our biggest challenges. The secret order of things points toward how life is providing you with the perfect conditions to grow right now, even if they seem entirely disturbing and flawed, and exactly not what you want.
Here are two guidelines to support you on your journey:
1. Consider writing this question down somewhere you will see it everyday: How can I grow and evolve as a result of this experience? Although in the darkest moments, there will appear to be no answer to this question and you may even feel enraged at the thought of asking it, by allowing this contemplation to be at the forefront of your life in both big and small encounters, you are offering yourself a supportive view that continuously puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life. This question has the capacity to offer refuge when nothing makes sense and you feel powerless in the hands of your life.
2. Preserve at least 5-10 minutes a day for contemplating both the ease and the struggle in your life. These few minutes are a sacred time to focus on three things that you are grateful for, as well as three things that are challenging and that you wish were different. If things are particularly dark and scary in your life, your gratitude list might look something like this:
1. Being able to breathe
2. Seeing the sun shine brightly
3. The friendly spark in a stranger’s eye
Be specific here so that you provide a powerful feedback loop for your body and soul to recognize that there is some light even in the greatest darkness. You may choose to write down your three items from each category in a journal or on a sticky note. Or, it might feel better to simply acknowledge each thing silently in a quiet meditation. Once you have identified your gratitudes and hardships, create a welcoming environment for them to inform, teach and guide the activities of your day.
Inherent in the privilege of human life, is that we will all face legitimate suffering. Making the decision to explore your view on hardship and choosing how you relate to difficulty offers you the gift of evolution and transformation. Do not ignore the knock on the door when soul comes to visit. These visits often come in the form of hardship and this is how our souls beg for our attention and care. When we have the courage to turn towards what most scares us, eventually the secret order of things will be revealed and you’ll be amazed at what you might find.
With my deepest respect and appreciation,