by Mary Cook
We have all experienced moments of freedom when we were able to breathe spirit into a situation instead of accepting it passively. At that moment, we transformed a mundane situation into a challenge; we stepped back from our usual reaction and called upon our ingenuity, capacity for wonder, compassion or humor, and in the process we discovered a new, unexpected way to respond.
What allows us to do this? I find that the trick is to recognize in time that these events are actually challenges and to be in shape spiritually so that I have the inner resources at hand to respond to them.
A certain degree of detachment from my immediate perception and emotional response is a crucial inner resource. It lets me discern whether my reaction to an event is really going to be helpful in the long run, or whether it would be wise to shift gears.
Example: I arrive home tired at the end of the day. My family is quarrelsome and grumpy. My immediate reaction is to vent my own frustration and anger. Instead, I detach myself a little from my own feelings, and in the silence that opens up in me, I ask myself, “What can I do to make this an evening we will all enjoy?” The focus of my attention has shifted from me to us, and now my ingenuity and creativity can come into play.
Example: It’s 3:00 am and I can’t sleep. As I toss and turn, I suddenly remember a friend’s request for prayers for a family member in trouble. I realize that this is a good opportunity to pray and send supportive thoughts.
Example: I am walking through the park blindly, obsessed by the situation back at the office. The song of a bird pierces my internal monologue. I stop to become conscious of myself, the plants and little animals and other people living their lives right here where I am now.
There is no end to the variety of forms, contexts and situations that challenges come to us in. When I open my refrigerator and see leftover food badly in need of being eaten, I realize that I am facing a challenge. How can I make a tasty meal of cold turkey, mashed potatoes, some green onion and a pepper on the verge of going soft?
What is your experience with challenges? What inner resources do you draw upon?