The Necessity of Adversity

“Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and sufferings on this journey so that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion may be truly fulfilled.”

The quote above is a Tibetan prayer that offers an astounding perspective on hardship. This prayer epitomizes embracing adversity and is important to keep in mind during dark times. We have all heard every expression in the book when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Furthermore, I would even argue that most people do truly believe them. But what about during the moment of suffering? When it feels impossible to think positively is when we need to the most. Although they serve a purpose, a lot of the nice little expressions and idioms fail to mention the excruciating pain that comes along with getting knocked down. Rather than try to tell ourselves not to feel that way and forcing ourselves to “be positive”, it is important to understand that the pain is absolutely necessary. In fact, it is an integral part of development.

When a baby crawls around exploring its world, pain is one of its most powerful teachers. Because of the pain it feels when touching a hot frying pan, for example, a baby learns to avoid things on the stove. The same is true throughout life. The pain that comes with every setback is designed to teach us that what we were doing does not work. From there we ADJUST and OVERCOME. When experiencing what feels like one obstacle after another, we often forget that we have moved on from the previous level where we experienced pain into a new realm of mastery. With each level comes a new kind of setback because the further you dive into any field the more mastery is required. The old way is simply no longer enough. A pessimist will see the long trend of “failures” and be disheartened; an optimist will see the progression.

An infinite number of distinct mistakes is called LEARNING, repeating the same one is called INSANITY. To be clear, this does not mean that the optimist is unbothered by the obstacles. S/he still feels the same crushing feeling of pain and defeat; however, the optimist sees that the pain has its purpose and understands that what s/he really has is an opportunity for further growth. Like the child touching the stove, the pain is neither long-lasting nor is it forgotten–it is simply a tool. Only as the child grows up does it learn the toxic concept of embarrassment and other completely unnecessary emotions that society has attached to rejection and mistakes. I implore you, apply your infant-child energy to how you learn in life. You will find that the world becomes just as magical as it was back then–and always will be should you choose to see it that way.


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