This Too Shall Pass
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami
Life is unpredictable. No surprises there. We never know what lies around the corner waiting to test our resolve. Life’s challenges are part of the human condition and yet none are immune from the ravages of existence. They arise for reasons we cannot comprehend and leave us like a wounded pigeon, with broken wings. Yet contained within this knowledge and in spite of life’s upheaval, we are able to reconnect to our authentic power however uncompromising conditions appear. The quote by Haruki Murakami signifies our ability to assume control of how we interpret pain and suffering: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Can you identify with this narrative in your own life?
Through my own trials I now appreciate the supreme lesson that we are ultimately not in control. Knowing this, we surrender to universal forces to imbue us with the experiences to shape our destiny. Surrender does not mean apathy, in contrast it means mental and emotional detachment from preferred outcomes. We allow the process of life to unfold through us and in doing so trust our needs are fulfilled at the right time. We are never presented with an experience that is not the sum of our conditioning. Each challenge stretches us to grow beyond our comfort zone. Comparable with the seasons which arrive and recede, our challenges serve a purpose. Sometimes it may not be obvious for a long time, yet everything unfolds in line with a supreme order. I am neither referring to religion nor spirituality, but an intricate universal order which governs the framework of reality.
There is an ancient Sufi passage that states: “This too shall pass.” Reflect on these words during your darkest hour. For example, do you believe that pain and suffering will recede to give way to a harmonious solution? For painful challenges dissolve in the same way morning fog lifts to reveal a brilliant day. We must yield to our challenges by leaning in to them instead of opposing them. What happens when we move into our challenges instead of run away from them? We face them head on and build self-confidence. The storm represents our darkest hour amid the backdrop of uncertainty. Known as the dark night of the soul, the storm serves a purpose. It endows us with vital resources intended for our personal evolution. It is by no mistake that the bigger we play, the harder we fall. Challenges can arise suddenly, yet lead us to a deeper knowledge of ourselves. Our personal growth is impeded were it not for the difficult times. Man does not rise to his best under the kindest conditions, yet in the harshest storm he discovers his true potential.
We mustn’t only embrace the good times, but savour the difficult times as well since progress is realised under testing conditions. The happiest people are those who have undergone hardship to emerge with deep wisdom to share with others. We prevail not in waiting for the storm to pass, but in proceeding through the storm. It was Winston Churchill who once said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” You see, the storm shapes our inner landscape by exposing our strengths and weaknesses. It sharpens the saw as the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey reminds us in his acclaimed book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Even Our Pain And Troubles Are Transitory
“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” – Mahatma Gandhi
If you are feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges, get back on your feet and lean into it. Acquire the lessons, experience the pain. We must venture beyond our comfort zone if we are to awaken our potential. Those who settle, burn out well before their time has come. It was George Bernard Shaw who said: “I want to be all used up before I die.” Similarly, we must strive to nurture patience and self-compassion as we endure the storm. In doing so we develop a resilient sense of self. Consider the advice you would offer a close friend or family member undergoing a similar trial. I was the Buddha who taught the Four Noble Truths essential to his teachings. They apply to us if we seek to understand the nature of adversity and how to make sense of it in our lives. If we wish to penetrate the true nature of our existence, we must develop a deeper knowledge of ourselves. Suffering is the threshold into one’s reality, perceived through the lens of adversity. The Four Noble Truths affirm that life is impermanent – everything is in a transitory state, even our pain and troubles.
They are espoused in the following principles:
The Truth of Suffering:
Life is filled with suffering.
The Truth of the Cause of Suffering:
The root cause of suffering relates to our cravings for the wrong things. Our material attachments can never meet our true needs since we always yearn for more. Everything is impermanent or in a transitory state.
The Truth of the End of Suffering:
Suffering can be overcome and happiness attained if we relinquish our cravings and live each day as it comes. Bliss is attained when we let go of satisfying our personal needs in place of allowing life to flow through us.
The Truth of the Path Leading to the End of Suffering:
This embodies the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the end of suffering: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Our response to hardship is measured by our attitude and mental resilience. It is author and educator Charles Swindoll who once proclaimed: “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I’ve come to realise that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.” Therefore, it is not life’s volatility that is the cause of our hardship, yet how we interpret those events that shape our life. We have two choices in each challenge: rise to it and in doing so overcome it or retreat into despair. The latter invites more suffering and erodes our personal self. We all suffer pain in one form or another, yet the degree to which we choose to suffer remains within our control.