I just love this quote from Lao Tsu, it speaks so eloquently of the human experience. When we encounter difficulties we just want them to get out of the way. That might be an external event, behaviours we find difficult from another, symptoms we are experiencing physically or mentally…it can manifest in many ways, but in general we want problems to go away.
And yet, as I work with people therapeutically it is clear that wishful thinking alone is not going to change the world beyond us, nor is it magically going to make all well inside. I think of symptoms and difficulties as signposts, or messengers. They are pointing towards something that needs attention. Steve Gilligan calls them ‘spirit waking up’ and I think this is a useful metaphor, whether the word spirit speaks to you personally or not.
When something is ‘in the way’ it's time to get really curious. How do you come to find yourself with this particular problem just now? What is it calling your attention to? What message does it hold within? What changes when you take that message in? How might you respond to what you have noticed? What healing is now possible? What difference does that make to what was ‘in the way’ initially?
It’s often a tough one to think of life’s difficulties as gifts offering insight and lessons. And yet, so, so often that is exactly what I notice them to be as I work with people facing adversity inside themselves and in life.
There is an old adage ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ In a way, I guess so. For me though, it’s a type of strong that is about embracing vulnerability, being with emotions and allowing them to flow through. It’s a type of strong that is about standing in the midst of adversity and knowing your own value, yet acting with humility and grace. It’s a type of strong that allows you to continually grow and change, taking on life’s lessons as you move along the way.
I’m not sure I’m there yet with being able to thank difficulties for coming along to teach me the lessons they do, that is a work in progress. For now, I’ll keep holding open to possibilities, for me and for my clients, because growth is life, without it we stagnate.