Why We Must Learn To Weather The Storms Of Life

Published on: April 6, 2015

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The Dark Night of the Soul

“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. You never know what lies around the corner waiting to test your resolve. Life’s challenges are part of the human condition and none are immune from the ravages of existence. They arise for reasons we cannot understand and can leave us feeling like a wounded bird, with broken wings. Yet contained within this knowledge and despite life’s upheaval, we can reconnect to our authentic power despite how uncompromising conditions are. It is why I am drawn to the passage by author Haruki Murakami, who says it is within our power how we interpret pain and suffering: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Are you comfortable with this idea that how you respond to what happens to you is more important than the event itself?

For instance, through my own trials, I appreciate we are ultimately not in control. Knowing this, we surrender to universal forces and trust our experiences are shaping our destiny. Here, surrender does not mean apathy; it means mental and emotional detachment from preferred outcomes. We allow the process of life to unfold through us and trust our needs will be fulfilled at the right time. You are never presented with an experience that is not the sum of your current conditioning. Each challenge stretches you to grow beyond your comfort zone. Comparable with the seasons which come and go, your challenges serve a purpose. Sometimes, it may not be obvious for a long time, yet everything unfolds in line with a greater order, even if it appears to look chaotic. I am neither referring to religion nor spirituality, but an intricate universal order which governs the framework of reality.

There’s an ancient Sufi passage that reads: “This too shall pass.” I invite you to reflect on these words during your darkest hour. Pain and suffering will eventually recede if we are willing to face them and allow them to move through us. It requires processing our pain and not letting it shape our future. Painful challenges dissolve in the same way morning fog lifts to reveal a brilliant day. That is, yield to your challenges by leaning in to them, instead of opposing them. What happens when you move into your challenges than run away from them? You face them and build self-confidence. The storm represents your darkest hour amid the backdrop of uncertainty. Known as the Dark Night of the Soul, the storm serves a purpose. It endows you with important resources that serve your personal evolution.

The Impact Of Our Attitude Toward Life

“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

It is no mistake that the bigger we play, the harder we fall. Challenges can arise suddenly, yet they lead us to a deeper knowledge of ourselves. Otherwise, your personal growth is obstructed if you did not experience difficulties. We do not rise to our best under the kindest conditions, yet in the harshest storm we discover our true potential. Therefore, do not embrace the good times alone, but turn towards your difficulties with openness, since progress is realised under testing conditions. The happiest people are those who have undergone hardship to emerge with deep wisdom to share. We prevail not in waiting for the storm to pass, but in proceeding through it. Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” You see, the storm shapes your inner landscape by exposing your strengths and weaknesses. It sharpens the saw as Stephen Covey reminds us in his acclaimed book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Are you comfortable to accept the good with the bad?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges, see if you can find it within yourself to persist through 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, you develop a resilient sense of self. Consider your advice to a close friend or family member undergoing a similar trial.

The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which are essential to his teachings. They apply to us if we seek to understand the nature of adversity and how to make sense of it. 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 by 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.


Your response to hardship is measured by your attitude and mental resilience. Author Charles Swindoll said: “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live, the more convinced I’ve come that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.” Therefore, it is not life’s volatility that causes our hardship, but how we interpret the 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.

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