Did you ever go through a hard patch of life, or a challenging event? Of course you have (maybe you even chuckled out loud reading that question). A student recently reached out to me for advice. She was having a very hard time in life and was not showing up for herself in the way that she most aspires to…AND which she has a good bit of experience in. Basically she had lost control of her mind, and it was going in a very painful direction. We’ve all been there, too!
Certainly there are many tools that we can potentially enlist in such situations, from yoga or elsewhere, but one that I put out to her was seeing it as a test. I think sometimes the Universe/God gives us a “poke” (or a bunch of pokes!!) to “see what we’ll do.”
Is that really what’s happening? I think, in this case, that it doesn’t really matter. For myself, having the attitude that it’s a test helps me rise to the occasion and access a deeper, stronger, more resilient part of myself. That shift then allows me to show up more fully as the person that I aspire to be, to manifest the higher part of myself and not be so fully given to the lower part/lower forces that would drag me down and down and down.
When I graduated college, on my own initiative, I permanently enrolled myself in the School of Life. Those were the literal words I used in my mind. Going to college had been, as it was for maybe most of us, just what a person raised by educated parents does after graduating from high school. However, now it was totally my choice, freely taken, to enroll myself in the “new” school, that I had strangely ALWAYS been in anyway. Maybe it was an acknowledgement of what was, or maybe it was an acceptance of what was, but it was a clear decision to be part of IT. I could join the “School” or fight it. I like learning and somehow felt called by then to investigate and try to find the deeper Truth that I was absolutely sure I didn’t have though I was fairly confident that it existed. Certainly at that point I was a mess (who isn’t when starting the Path?), but fortunately by then I recognized it; in addition I had some good things going for me. I love learning and am up for a challenge.
Maybe it was natural, especially at that point in my life, to “come up” with the “school” idea, having just been in formal schooling for the previous 16+ years. What else is there??? But I think that perspective has some really wonderful benefits I think, even beyond what I wrote above. It lends itself to me being constantly reminded that it’s (I’m) a work in progress; that I’m actually LEARNING, not just repeating the same stuff over and over, that I am moving forward. Being that it’s the School of Life, it points to the fact that it’s a lifelong process, and possibly beyond, and being on that time scale can bring some degree of peace of mind as well since I don’t need to be “done” right now! It also gives the inspiration and potentially structure to the process of our increasing years not just making us old but also making us wise, something that from what I’ve seen does NOT happen automatically but instead takes dedicated and meaningful effort, study and practice. Better to start that process when we’re young!
Then we come back to the “testing” idea. Certainly in school there are tests so we can check: Have we REALLY absorbed the knowledge? Are we ready for the next bit of learning? How strong are we really? Life, like (maybe) everything, has waves, and some collections of moments are more easeful and some are more challenging. Sometimes the flow is gentle and calm and sometimes it’s like we’re traversing the rapids! It’s the hard times that test AND REVEAL what we’re made of, what we REALLY value and hold dear, who we really are. AND it’s when things are challenging that we are getting stronger, not when things are easy. Remember (or those of you still in school, you know!) that around testing time, IF we are sincere in our aspiration and are aiming at doing well with it, there’s a lot of energy and focus and heightened awareness. Those are some of the qualities we are trying to cultivate on the Path! For the spiritual Path, we are also endeavoring to cultivate some degree of love and compassion, and certainly that’s where some of the tests come in! 🙂
Ultimately again, is it really a test? Is God/the Universe really that calculating? Probably not. Ultimately I think it’s all just a Flow, and anything we SAY about the Flow at any given moment is just a mental wave with no ultimate reality (meaning it’ll change!). The Flow is the Flow. But until we come to that experience/realization, viewing the hard times as a test can be helpful…but definitely don’t adopt it if you DON’T find it helpful and it just causes you to resist more intently!
For myself, during a recent trial of faith, inner guidance and willingness to be open to Grace, I was finally able to view the challenge as a test. Rather than just being in mental “panic mode” about it, an unexpected shift occurred as well that had me actually feel gratitude for what I’d been “freaking out” about for some time! Though the tendency to slip back into that previously programmed mode is certainly still in there, getting back to some degree of clarity and calm was then easier. (And yes, some tests we “pass with flying colors,” some we do “just OK,” and some we “fail” but even that’s not “the end,” in any of those scenarios! There will be more tests. And some “failures” in the moment turn out to be blessings in the end.)
After I shared my thoughts with the student I mentioned above, she thanked me for reminding her of what she already knew. I’m sure anyone reading this already knows all this, on some level and in some way, but sometimes it’s necessary to have an “external” reminder of some truths that we had lost sight of. So I write this for you and for me and for anyone else who needs a reminder.
May you be at peace of heart and mind and share that with all you touch.