Learning From The Struggle

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There is a lot of pain in the world right now.  Loved ones are hurting.  Entire communities are confused and in shock.  Others are feeling too much – from others and from their own hearts hurting.  Some are worried and fearful of what is to come.  A dear soul lays still, hopeless, stuck, and not knowing which way to turn. Everywhere I turn, someone is carrying some kind of heavy load.

The cause of our pain is a result of countless reasons: physical illness, thoughts we play over and over in our minds and can not let go of, negative energy we accumulate in our bodies from others and from ourselves.

Every single one of us have been in this place.  And, yet, somehow, we paddle through to the other side.  If we are growing as spiritual beings, once we arrive on this other side, we recognize that we are changed.  We are not the same human we were before.

As I hop online today, I receive similar messages everywhere.

“Sometimes not only do you have to fall. . . but you have to hit ROCK BOTTOM to find out who you are, and who you want to become.”   ~Beth Shoutler

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”   ~proverb

 

“Just when go through a hard period,  When everything seems to oppose you,

When you feel you can not even bear one more minute,  Never Give Up.

Because it is the time and place that the course will divert.”   ~Rumi

These were just a few subtle shouts that these words needed to be heard today.  Not only for my ears, but for these other souls who are hurting, to bring understanding about our journey here on earth and that there is hope, for this too shall pass.

The real shift happens when we recognize these heavy moments. This place of despair means that something must change. Something. It wakes us up to dwell inward and ask for guidance about what it is that is meant to learn.  What is the newness that will evolve and birth itself?  Challenges are brought to us to teach us more about the truth of who we are.  We spirits, in human bodies are never done evolving on planet Earth School.

This sounds all poetic and easy to say, especially when you are in a good place at the moment.  Sometimes, recognizing what we’ve learned does not happen until we’ve dug out way out of the hole. Sadly, this makes the time in the hole long, dark and scary. We can’t be deciding to stay down here in the hole or it gets darker and darker. . . and harder to come out.

Instead, to quicken the process and benefit from the learning, it’s important to train your mind to think differently.  By the way, there are lots of ways to pull out of darkness (get into nature, exercise, watch a funny movie), but it’s the new understanding from that challenging place that must evolve for it to benefit you. Otherwise, you will end up right back in that same place, in a different situation, and not know why.

Here are some ways that I’ve learned to help myself move through a challenge and transform into a higher level of understanding about who I am:

1.  Ask yourself,

“Ok, who is not happy here?  Mind, body, heart or soul?”

We first have to narrow our pain to where it is coming from.  I have found many times that the root of my pain comes from my mind in focusing on obsessive thoughts that are pulling me down. Our mind can be our worst enemy and we need to immediately recognize when this happens.  I call my mind “Bernice”, so that I can separate it from “me” and quiet her more easily.  I am not my mind.  Meditate. Still the mind.

Sometimes, it’s my body that is not happy.  My body is named “Joy” for the joy it brings me when it is at optimal levels.  We all know that lack of exercise and eating unhealthy are going to effect you.  Illness will swirl you into gloom (especially if you let your mind get it’s way and tell you that the pain will never end or you are going to die).  When our body is not ok, that means something is wrong and we need to fix it.  Paying attention to the subtle signs our body gives us will help us to prevent bigger challenges later on.

Meet “Rose”.  She’s my heart.  Maybe it’s your heart that is hurting. A person in your life has left and there is an emptiness there.  Or, perhaps your heart has been closed to stay protected.  Someone has hurt your heart too many times, so you think best not to open it and allow love to flow through. If it’s your heart, you will know. You feel pain there – or you feel nothing.  Sometimes the love we need to open our hearts to, is to ourselves.

It may be your soul.  Your soul is who you truly are (it makes sense that I name my soul “Shari”).  Your soul is your truth and purpose – what God put you on this earth for.  If your soul is not being heard and you are not living your truth, your soul suffers.  This purpose inspires us and feeds us.  Your purpose may be teaching, or healing others.  It might be creating beauty for the earth. Perhaps it’s to be an advocate for nature.  If you do not know what your purpose is, spend time with this.  If you do, analyze whether you have been living it or not.

Your mind, body, heart and soul (I call them my friends) need to agree with each other – or align.  My dear friend, Bridgette Doerr, a women’s empowerment coach, taught me this through our coaching sessions.  One of “the 4 friends” can not be overpowering all the time or you will find yourself in a state darkness over and over.

2.  Be an observer of your emotions, feeling, judgements or beliefs about a challenging situation and ask the question,

“What do I need to learn from this?”

This is huge.  Once we choose to allow our emotions and mind to take over, we spiral into a dark cloud uncontrollably.  This magnifies the moment we tell the story over and over again as it intensifies with each retelling and becomes harder to let go of to see the other side.  By being able to breathe through the emotions and ask ourself what the learning is, we can come to an understanding as to why God gave you this challenge.

3.  Again, be an observer of an event, words said, emotions felt and ask yourself,

“What do I need to let go of?”

This is the highest form of reflection and conscious awareness and takes practice (eternally).  I wish I could say I can always do this, but I am such a work in progress.

In Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, Singer talks about making challenges and struggles a game, especially when we feel strong emotions or judgements surface. The goal is to release all old negative narratives that drag us down.  If we believe that each day is an opportunity to allow these old stories, or samskaras (in yogic terms), to be released, we can just be a silent observer of when the emotion arises and then determine if it is attached to a old negative story that we live by.  If it is, YAY!!!  All you have to do is to acknowledge it and breathe through it – let it pass right through you and release it forever.  I like to say a little good bye prayer when another one bites the dust.  Yes, it sounds easy.  It honestly is.  But, you have to pay attention.

Know that you are meant to learn about yourself every day through your trials, twists, turns, bumps and bruises.  If life was as smooth as cupcakes, how would we grow?

Shari 🙂

A song just for you ~ Press On 

A Pinterest Board just for you ~ Transformation

An after addition:  If you are in crisis, turn directly to God.  A Tribe Writer friend, Dayna Bickham wrote about this today in a very  powerful post about tools you need to survive in a crisis.

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Shaken ~ By A Coffee Shop Employee

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I’m blessed to be able to travel to Ohio a couple of times a year for training at Ohio State University for my job as a literacy coach.  I travel alone and to be honest, I love spending time with myself alone.  The traveling is a bonus.

The mornings in Ohio are glorious.  Temperatures about 30 degrees warmer than MInnesota, the sun rises and warms the sky to wrap around you and just fill you with bliss.  My rental car, a spiffy little Chevy Cruz (a change from my big Trailblazer)  hugs the curves of the road as I drive about 15 miles to my destination.  The radio stays set at 104.9, The River, a Christian radio station that touches my soul each morning.  Yum.  Life is good.

Each morning in Columbus, on my way to training,  I swing by a Caribou Coffee shop for a large dark decaf, two shots of hazelnut syrup and steamed, whipped skim milk. ( M-m-m-m, just writing that makes me miss Ohio)  The drive through line always long, so I end up parking my car and walking inside to order.

One particular day, after placing my order and paying, I slide along the counter to wait at the end for my drink to be ready for pick up.  The gal who takes the order is never the maker of the order. She gives the order to this big, burly, 20 something year old guy who does all the coffee fixings.  I’m watching him and waiting, hoping he gets it right.

He hands me my cup and states, “Here’s your coffee.”

“Yay!” I’m rejoicing.  Happy day!  Life can begin now!

Then. . . I think, and I ask, “Is it decaf?” just to be sure.  I’ve been handed a regular coffee before, after a decaf request, and my body and mind do not sit well downing all that unintentional caffeine, so I NEED to double check.  Always.

“What?” he asks, looking at me confused.

“Is it decaf?” I ask again, a little clearer and a little louder.  Maybe he has a hearing problem, I don’t know.

He looks at me strange, then glances over at the gal who took the order and she says to him, “Yes, it’s decaf.”

He then, reports to me, “Yes, it’s decaf.”

“Thank you!” I tell him and I smile, taking my coffee and heading towards to door, all happy and warm inside.  Life is wonderful!

How could a morning be any better than this?  A perfect coffee, amazing weather, and an opportunity for me to engage in trainings that expand my mind and connect with other literacy coaches?  Honestly, I am so lucky!

Upon approaching the door, I then, hear the burly man say to the ordering gal, “Is this decaf???” in this loud, mimicing, obnoxious voice.

I stop dead in my tracks.  Jolted, I look over at him and he’s chuckling to her.  She looks at me with a “I don’t know him,” look.

What? I caught that.

Seriously?  In shock, I have trouble making my feet go forward.

My mind is asking, “Did that just happen?”

I am shaken.

As I walk to my car, stunned over this episode of pure disrespect for another’s well being, I almost forget where I am, what time it is and what I am doing there.  I manage to get inside the car and just sit there for a moment.  I take some deep breaths.

And then, I cry.

For Pete’s Sake.

“Really, Shar? You are going to let some idiot allow to enter your state of mind and wreck the flow of glorious love you are feeling?  What’s wrong with you?  He is not worth your energy or thoughts!  Shake this off!  Get a grip!”

I’m angry at myself for letting others affect me in this way.  I thought I had moved beyond this.  I’m an adult.  I can take a little criticism.  But, it’s the years of teasing in my elementary and early high school years that come flooding back.  Once a target for teasing, if that thorn is not yanked out, a little brushing up against it causes all the pain to come rushing back.  The pain is raw.

Or, (my mind running rampant now) is it that fact that I’m not some cute little young thing? I’m a middle aged, late 40ish, woman, who means nothing to this younger generation.  Ignored, unnoticed and unappreciated.  I’ll bet he would not mimic a cute 20 year old, like my daughters Gracie or Lauren.

I hate how the mind works in these situations.

I then realize that I have to write this down.  These disturbances within us are cause for a deeper exploration.  I don’t want to lose it, as uncomfortable as it is, I need to get to the root of why this stranger’s remarks can hurt me in such a way.

I drive to my training site and sit down next to a friend.  She asks how I am.  My story creeps out of me.  She looks at me with feelings of empathy and pain and tries to lift my spirits as women friends do.  “What an jerk,” she reassures me.  Then she asks, “Did you say something to him?  You should have, you know.”

Ughhh.  I know.  Now I’m even more perturbed with myself because I could not be calm enough to take a stand and say something in defense of myself.  What’s wrong with me?  I’m a mature, strong person?  Dang.  Double Dang.  I missed a major opportunity to practice standing up for myself. I’m so weak, I tell myself.

And then, this amazing thing happens.

Our topic of study in training that day?  Persuasive writing.  We dig into our memories of unjust acts towards us, how we might make the world a better place for all and putting our words on paper for the appropriate audience to make changes where change is due.

Boy, did I have stuff to write.

The Caribou Coffee shop manager was going to receive a letter from me explaining my experience.  I voiced how I did not want this nimbusul fired, but that I just wanted to make sure that they trained all their employees to treat their customers with the utmost dignity and respect.  For heaven’s sakes, the coffee shop people are often the first humans others speak to in the morning.  Their energy emits a tone for the entire day!  It should be their JOB to spread light to all they come into contact with!

Synchronicity again. The occasion happened to ready me for several opportunities, not just persuasive writing.  But, to examine what is deep inside of me that needs to be healed, and to awaken me to the fact that I need to work on wordage to stand up for myself and for others when unkind acts take place (without being a bitch ~ there is a line, you know.  However, Madonna says you have to be a bitch to get things done).

All I know is, I refuse to be a wimp anymore.  I will build my character.  Grow.  Teach others what it means to be kind and have compassion.

Maybe those idiots just don’t know. . .

Maybe their lives are far worse off than our own.

Sadly, because of their ignorance, I now, will get my coffee from Starbucks.