There was a time in my life when anytime something didn't go the way I wanted it to go, I felt defeated. Nowhere was this more obvious than in my relationships with men. The guy I'm dating didn't call me? Panic. Date rescheduled? Downward spiral. I said something that could be misinterpreted? Code freakin' red. I drove myself nuts, chasing my tail in a life that I imagined was so full of problems that I could do very little to resolve.
Naturally, that harsh way of seeing life could not sustain me, and eventually, I was pushed over the edge. One day, after a few big challenges with the guy I was seeing and with work, I realized I couldn't keep living my life the way I had been. I didn't know exactly what that meant; I just knew it was true. Just like that, I packed my bags and went to the jungle in Costa Rica to start doing some deep inner work, to meditate, to decondition, and to unplug from it all.
As I dropped deeper and deeper into myself and into the truth within, much wisdom was unearthed. This wisdom cleansed my perspective and showed me that every situation in life has a gift to offer, if only we are willing to discover it. It revealed to me that most problems are just misunderstood opportunities and that we experience life according to our perspective.
More and more, I began to interact with the challenging moments as opportunities to cleanse the mirror of perception, know myself more, and more deeply experience love. In other words, I began to opt into my empowerment rather than believe the trip that the "final answer" of anything could ever be something that did anything less than enrich my life, my soul, and my spirit.
It is not always easy to change our perspectives, but it is a life-changing shift that allows us to live the life we truly want.
Here are three ways I learned to unearth the gift within challenging moments:
1. Slow down.
There is so much wisdom to glean from life, but the noise of our lives prevents us from hearing it. We must slow down to hear and sense what's beneath the surface. This is how we tap into our intuition, which is home to our best guidance and is how we hear the messages of life. With regards to my challenges with men, when I slowed down enough to look at myself honestly, I saw there was a lot of wounding from my childhood that needed to be resolved. That insight gave me a chance to finally work on it.
2. Reject the problem paradigm.
We are conditioned to view anything that interferes with our plans or expectations as a problem: a flat tire, a sprained ankle, the Wi-Fi going out — or inner experiences like sadness and anger. But most of the things we consider "problems" are just misunderstood opportunities. Other unwanted circumstances, like the loss of a loved one, illness, a breakup, and so on are profound life experiences through which our consciousness has a potent opportunity to expand if we face the situation courageously.
When something challenging happens, it is an opportunity to slow down, breathe, and shift our perspective. A sprained ankle could be giving us time to relax. A flat tire could be rearranging our schedule in a way that births an even sweeter reality for us or simply teaching us acceptance. Sadness might be visiting to help us cry out years of neglected emotion. Likewise, sadness and other emotions might be visiting for no reason at all — simply because they are there. And for that, we are invited to give ourselves the same love and acceptance that we would a child.
When we are in the problem paradigm, we draw a line in the sand between life and ourselves, and we believe we are right and life is wrong. When we move out of the problem paradigm, our perspective alchemizes the gifts of life, and we are once again unified with existence, which is the sweetest and truest place to be.
3. Don't be ashamed of mistakes.
We all mess up. The difference is that when we are united with ourselves and life, we don't spend time agonizing over it. Why not? Because messing up is part of being human, and we get that. Furthermore, it's not "messing up" if we turn it into a learning experience — then it's growing and living in love.In my case, getting stuck in the wheel of shame kept me stuck in old patterns. When I took a deep breath and accepted myself the way I was, I was finally able to move forward and make magic with it all. And that's what it's all about. When we speak or act in a way that limits the potential of love for ourselves, another, or life, we ought to view it as a clue. Challenges are gifts when we work with them for our betterment and resolve the root issue. Indeed, when we muster the courage to travel to the source of any unresolved material, we give ourselves the gift of transformation.
And it must be said: It's completely possible to have a moment of reactivity or experience challenging feelings without there being something big to resolve. When we're reactive, sometimes we just need to slow down. When we are experiencing challenging feelings, we often just need to give ourselves space to be vulnerable. On this planet, there is no such thing as something that is both alive and completed — with no more expansion possible. That includes us — our consciousness, our clarity, and our expanding and contracting hearts. Indeed, when we treat life as the sacred ceremony it is, the meaningfulness of each moment may once again be restored, discovered, and shower its blessings upon us.