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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Value of Adversity and the Struggle

As I look back on the last 50 years of my life and recount the good times- I simply can't neglect the value of adversity. Of struggle. Without adversity and the struggle- you cannot know what is good in life. Very often, it is the struggle itself. From wiki on yin yang...

In Taoist philosophy, yin and yang (☯) arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin and yang thus are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.

It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (i.e. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front).

When we are living through adversity and the struggle we have no idea of it's value. In fact- we think it has no value or that it is detrimental. We label it as negative. We try to avoid the struggle at all costs. We fight and resist it. Yet it is that very struggle that will define the high points in our lives. Adversity and the struggle and the extent of it- may very well define what type of life we will have. It will define the perimeters. And we will look back at the struggle and very often we will say- that times of great adversity were the most valuable times in our lives.

What happens to those that never taste significant adversity? Their lives are narrowly defined. The lows are higher, the highs are lower. The good and the bad get blurred. People that have not tasted substantial adversity are cheated in life. They have no reference point. They lack understanding. They never taste the fear of spending a night under the park bench or in the mission. They take life for granted. A life without fear, without struggle or sacrifice, has diminished value. Without yang there can be no yin. They define each other. They exist in complete harmony- unless of course humans interfere with that process.

I have seen people who have tasted little or no adversity. I know of a couple enduring tremendous adversity right now. I look with confidence upon the latter...they will grow quite strong. I feel sorry for the former. They will have no way of measuring what is good or bad in life. They will not be forced to fear, to fight, to struggle mightily, to improve. It will all just be mediocre for them. Their life's yin will lack luster. They will not understand.

As I look back on the greatest times in my life- there were times of success, of adversity, and of struggle. I am grateful for the lowest lows in my life for without them- I could not define how valuable and wonderful life can be. I want to feel the good and the bad. I don't want some mediocre existence shielded by well meaning people trying to make my life easier. I like it hard sometimes. I am ok with that. I am grateful for every ache in my body. To feel those aches- aches that I earned in the struggle. I see the value of those things- I can't imagine life being any other way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Daily Commitment

The month of March has been fantastic. In terms of personal, emotional, and spiritual growth- I'm not sure it could get any better.

With an absolute and unwavering commitment to not take anything personally, life just gets better all of the time. Letting people be who they are, and that can include a lot of unconsciousness and dysfunction, is not a suggestion. It is mandatory. In fact, I would not have been able to get the level of serenity and calmness that I have achieved- without an unflinching commitment to this process.

It has evolved into a daily commitment and meditation. For me, it goes like this...

I am going to be the best person I can be today.

I am in charge of all of my emotions- I will make all of those emotional choices today. I am going to let people be just as crazy and insane as they want to be. I will not take any of their actions personally. Nor will I try to control or change any of their actions. When in doubt, I will ask WWGD? (what would God do) That is the choice I will make.

When I let people be who they are and I refuse to try and control their behavior (or become upset at differing opinions)- I find that about 80% of my problems disappear. The other 20% of my angst occurs when others try to control me or failing there- say something diminishing in frustration. I recognize those things now and I simply don't participate. Retaliation is failure.

As a side note, the people who purport to love us the most are the ones who often try to claim the moral high ground or who push buttons. Recognizing this is difficult but not impossible. If the people who purport to love us the most are causing us the most emotional distress- it is simply time to re-evaluate whether we want to continue to subject ourselves to this brand of "love."

I can honestly say, that except for one unavoidable exchange, I cannot recall a better month for me emotionally. By practicing spiritual principles, and adhering to them under difficult circumstances, we really can get to a place where unnecessary conflict is avoidable. Where necessary conflict can be addressed intelligently and as rationally as possible.

How many people commit to this type of daily process? The truth is, I don't know of any one. That's a shame- it's been an excellent daily plan for me.