Our obstacles are our problems. Sometimes our problems reside only in our heads, as in negative thoughts, or worries, or fear, and sometimes our problems are actual events that occur to us, such as losing our job, having an accident, failing to pass the bar, and so on. Sometimes our obstacles are individuals whose presence in our lives makes everything so much more difficult. Think of the nagging mother-in-law, the over-bearing supervisor at work, or the colleague who steals your ideas. I could mention the life partner who abandons you (see also When Love Walks Out the Door: Six Tips For Intelligent Survival), or the one who cheats on you (see also Why Does My Partner Treat Me Like This?), the teenage child that takes drugs, or the sister that was just given a terminal diagnosis. Obstacles are what stand in our way to an easy life. Our obstacles make our life difficult, and we just know, we absolutely know that the day we manage to get rid of them all, everything will be so much better…or will it? (Also listen to my audio clip How Do You Choose to React?)
A Bad Rap
Obstacles really have a bad rap. Life’s burdens. Our crosses.
We don’t tend to refer to obstacles in positive terms, nor do we speak well of them, or welcome them into our lives. Obstacles form part of our lives, and when they hover on the horizon, we cast our eyes about, attempting to find the quickest way to rid ourselves of them.
The very connotation of the word obstacle is something grim, gloomy, foreboding, awful, and the dictionary tells us that it is a barrier and a hindrance, an impediment, an interference, a difficulty and an inconvenience.
And yet, obstacles, by their very nature, precisely because they must be overcome if we are to surmount them, offer an innate opportunity. If we allow ourselves to view obstacles from another standpoint, we might just come to the conclusion that obstacles are our friends. (See also Claiming Responsibility For the Self).
Yes. Our friends. That old business about every cloud having a silver lining…there is actually some merit in it. If you can look at your obstacles as opportunities for growth, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that you will find something of value in your moment of difficulty, and furthermore, you may even find that in some measure, the obstacle proves easier to overcome than others in the past, simply because of this new viewpoint.
When my mother died when I was 19, while I was traveling abroad without the faintest idea that she was even ill, I was hurled headfirst into a bottomless black pit of gut-wrenching despair. I thought at first that I would never come back out of it. I imagined her having known that she was dying of a very fast-moving cancer, letting me go on my trip, taking the decision not to tell me so that I did not have to watch her die, and I felt myself tear into pieces. I could not imagine that I would ever be able to leave that black subterranean place that accosted me with its ferocious pain as I woke up every morning, and held me in its gelid embrace as I fell asleep at night.
A Greater Purpose
After only a few days, out of some deep place inside of me, I knew that this had to serve a greater purpose. She could not have died in the manner in which she did, without it coming to mean something valuable in my life. I had to make something of it. And I did. I began to realize the importance of the now moment. I began to appreciate the utmost wonder of every moment we have that we can share with those we love. I recognized how important it was to tell those we love that we love them. It’s not enough to know that they know…it’s also necessary to put it into words every so often.
Choices We Make About Our Obstacles
Those early lessons didn’t make me perfect. Later lessons were – seen subjectively – even harder, and – in some, very dark moments of my life – much more devastating. In the richness of hindsight I now know, and am pleased to affirm, that the person I am today – someone that I like very much – is this way precisely because of some of those major difficulties in my life. You might almost say that the obstacles were the jewels in my life that helped to hone me to bring me to the place I am today – on an inner level, and that without those obstacles, I would not have become who I am.
In trying to learn the lessons these obstacle brought to me, I fell by the wayside many times, and certainly will again, but they placed me firmly on a road from which I have not side-tracked for decades. And they taught me that all our obstacles, or our challenges, if we make the choice to view them through this new prism, can indeed become our friends, can indeed present us with magnificent opportunities to grow and learn, can indeed teach us important lessons about life, and thus can indeed bring us to a place where we actually live life more authentically and in a much better – and more free – way than before.
Not Minding What Happens
Viewing our obstacles from the point of view expressed by the great Krishnamurti – by what he said was his secret – I don’t mind what happens – allows us to recognize that – in the words of Eckhart Tolle in his A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose: “To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship of inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but to let it be. Does this mean you can no longer take action to bring about change in your life? On the contrary. When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment, your actions become empowered by the intelligence of Life itself.”
Where There is no Resistance, There is no Pain
Chris Griscom also wrote, many years ago, in one of her many magnificent books: where there is no resistance, there is no pain.
And that brings to mind something similar in Tolle’s seminal work The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Two short paragraphs in this – his first book – had meant a great deal to me almost three years ago when I was given a diagnosis of malignant uterine cancer.
“The present moment is sometimes unacceptable, unpleasant, or awful. It is as it is. Observe how the mind labels it and how this labeling process, this continuous sitting in judgment, creates pain and unhappiness. By watching the mechanics of the mind, you step out of its resistance patterns, and you can then allow the present moment to be. This will give you a taste of the state of inner freedom from external conditions, the state of true inner peace. Then see what happens, and take action if necessary or possible.”
A Miraculous Transformation
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
And that is what brings us to the point of this whole article: as you work with your obstacles, rather than against them, you will find – through this miraculous transformation Tolle refers to – that one singular ingredient – worth its weight in gold – in your life that can make it so much better –transform it miraculously – and that I continue to talk about over and over again in these newsletters: you will find inner peace and inner freedom.
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