When You Are Struggling


For those of us who have a regular practice, it can be a real disappointment to come up against a situation that rocks us so deeply that we lose our balance.

And yet, this is the moment where we are being taught, once again, that when we struggle we are most alive.

If you think back to some of those most difficult moments in your life you can see that what you emerged with could be your deepest understanding of how to navigate and accept the dips and valleys that are inevitable throughout life.

And yet, it can be so discouraging to come from a place of hard won stability and peace and to discover that, once again, something has knocked us to the floor and we have little choice but to slowly clamber to our feet. And begin again.

They say that the great boxer Ali took punches, absorbed the shocks. And by absorbing them, limited their power. I have no idea if that is true (how do you even google that?) but it makes sense.

When you are subject to a new and upsetting situation, it never helps to rail against it, to resist it. Of course, if you are in danger, or anyone is in danger, you need to resolve that. I am not talking about accepting violence or danger.

For me, it was during one of the most upsetting moments in my professional career that I discovered the power of Loving Kindness Meditation. For weeks, I had to stay in a corporate environment where I was being pushed out (against my will) as I negotiated a safe exit. I had to attend group meetings and one on ones with a boss who was actively undermining me. So I did what any reasonable meditator would do. I recited the Loving Kindness Meditation directly to my boss. Over and over. I was a Love Warrior. And what was once a slow drip of torture just being in the same building with my boss became a place where I could practice compassion and acceptance and sincere wishes for her well-being and the well-being of all others. I felt my heart soften and my entire body release the anger and tension.

Of course, it came back over and over. So I practiced Loving Kindness over and over. Each time I felt the release.

It was the power of that experience that brought me to my teaching path. Without that struggle, I don’t know that I would have followed this direction.

And now, as usual, life has handed another challenge, another struggle. I know that the place to face it is on the cushion. When I sit, I drop into the peace and space that is available to all of us – even in the darkest of times. And when I rise from my seat, I can carry that knowledge. I can turn to my practice even in the midst of a difficult conversation or moment. Acknowledging the pain I am feeling, coming to my breath, decreasing my reactivity. And approaching each situation as it arises with love, compassion and freedom. Saying to myself – this isn’t the plan or even what I ever thought might happen – but here it is. And so we go on.

Try it. It works.