We all face difficult situations in life- challenging jobs, difficult people, financial hardships, family issues, periods of stress, worry, sickness, etc. From these hard times we become much stronger individuals, and as such difficulty is a necessary requirement for personal growth.
Day to day difficulties
Here in India we don’t of course face any actual difficulties, but in the heat of the moment it seems like the worst thing ever. There’s a lot of stress around the organisation of the course, some students struggle to understand the lecturers due to their strong accents, some are suffering with bad stomachs, colds etc. The transport is always late, we’re always behind schedule, the air-con’s broken, someone wants to visit the local markets but isn’t allowed, it’s raining and we forgot our umbrellas… bla bla bla.
In normal life we’re faced with hundreds of thousands of these ‘difficulties‘- the underground is too packed, forgot lunch at home, the road is closed down, the washing machine breaks, the waiter brings you the wrong food, your card’s declined, your flight’s delayed, the supermarket’s closed or out of stock on your favourite Hot and Spicy Chicken Wings.. and funnily enough, these are the things which really frustrate us- the little things. These are the things which can ruin our whole day.
I’ve come to realise that people like me find comfort in whining, moaning, bitching and complaining about difficulties which, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t a big deal. We even complain about things which aren’t even surprising- like the British weather! How many times have I heard myself telling someone “I’ve had the worst day ever” simply because a few things happened which were a bit annoying or set me back a little bit. Being pissed off in general has become part of my personality. Unless I change my attitude, a day won’t pass without unnecessary stress.
A week into the course, I felt so drained of all the moaning and petty complaints I engaged in every day. I finally started to remember: Holy Crap, you’re in India?!??!! I started to slow down, looked out into the mountains. Breathed in that wonderful air. Remembered how lucky I was to have been accepted onto the course, to be taught by the leading professors in Yoga and Holistic Health, to have this delicious food, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, a comfortable bed… no, really. Those little difficult moments now seem like nothing at all. This is what I mean about personal growth– I’ve matured a little. I’ve let go somewhat of that ‘privileged princess’- Madonna in Swept Away – attitude.
This is exactly what the breathing techniques and many other principles of Yoga (being true to yourself, bringing awareness within, inner science, self-realisation, etc) cultivate for us; the ability to widen our perspective, manage stress effectively and overall, live a blissful life.
Ups and Downs
A blissful life doesn’t mean a life without ups and downs. All humans go through difficult times. It’s how we react to these experiences which makes the difference between a good day and a bad day. The experience itself is not important- I mean, it isn’t able to be good or bad by itself. We choose whether it’s good or bad, based on our reactions. That’s why two people can have the same problem but one is unmoved by it while the other just can’t forget it. When I reduced the amount of time I waste moaning, I felt a lot lighter and positive.
If we can agree that we have this ability to choose how to react to difficulties, we can start off with these minor problems (like when McDonalds forgets to give my mum her nugget sauce and she’s driven all the way home to discover this outrage). Once we learn how to manage minor problems, void of any stress, we’ll then be better prepared to handle serious difficulties in life.
“It’s easy for those airy-fairy Guru’s, they can live in bliss, they don’t suffer, they don’t have any worries or problems”, “What, I’m just supposed to pretend that my shit isn’t happening and run off to the Himalayas?”
That person you know who’s always smiling has dealt with or is going through their own shi*, but is able to come out smiling anyway. No one has it easy. I was surprised that the 28 of us on the course, despite growing up in different places, different countries, had so many similarities. Everyone had suffered immensely at some stage- toxic relationships, broken homes, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, grief… Many students had left university and returned later in life, some were still having therapy for various reasons. I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I burst into tears. There we both were years ago, drowned in some of the most difficult moments in our life, completely unaware that this stranger was suffering too, and that we’d later become friends in a small remote town in Northern India.
Since we are certainly not alone in our difficulties, however awful they are, they have to be embraced as normal occurrences which all humankind face. Just like the minor problems then, which can be resolved by choosing to react in a different way, so can serious difficulties be eased gently in the way we react to and face them.
Yoga teaches us that although we have absolutely no control over the most part, we always have control over our feelings, what we choose to feel and thereby transmit to others. If we always transmit negativity, anger and stress- we too will receive negativity, anger and stress. Pandit Shiram Sharma Acharya said “1/4 of circumstances you receive are a result of your own past actions, 3/4 of circumstances that life gives you are a direct result of your current outlook.”
It’s no wonder then when my past actions and outlook was toxic, more toxic things kept happening to me, and so on and so forth.
So when we face a down in life, minor or serious, we need to acknowledge it and accept that ups and downs happen to all people. We need to view it is a natural occurrence, which is neither good or bad in itself, and try reacting in a calm, accepting, patient, forgiving way. I need to remember that despite the goings-on in my life, there are billions of other lives going on too, and despite all of our hardships the sun continues to rise, the earth continues to rotate, the trees continue to blossom… life goes on. Managing our reactions to difficulties will create new, favourable situations, a feeling of lightness, happiness and maximum personal growth.