What is the difference between coal and a diamond? Both are essentially carbon, but when coal is under intense pressure and heat, it transforms into a diamond. We are similar. Intense challenges can transform us into beautiful diamonds when we allow that process to happen. Unfortunately, we often avoid challenging situations, or we don’t make the most of them, even when we know the result will be worth it.
Think back to some of your proudest memories. Don’t we speak fondly of difficult times? “We were stranded for seven days during the flood with no power”, “I made it down the mountain just in the nick of time before the storm”, “We were down 5-2 in our football game and in the last 15 minutes we found the courage to turn it around to win 6-5”. Rising above adversity is the stuff of great novels and movies; there would be nothing to talk about if there was no struggle. When we survive tough times with integrity, we say, “Wow, we did it!”
When challenges arise, try to pause, meditate, and ask yourself: “How can I go through this situation with excellence? Can I learn something from this?” (Photo: Reuters)
Would the Marvel movies be successful without the triumph of good over evil? Would the Ramayana and the Mahabharata be the classic tales of valour and fortitude in Indian culture? Our whole archetypal make-up is based on the hero and heroine overcoming great adversity with integrity and courage. Imagine the life of Mother Sita in the Ramayana. How many of us would maintain our elegance and integrity if we had to go through the same trials that she underwent?
At a more mundane level, if there were no exams at school, how many of us would attend class? There would be those few who are really sincere about education, but they are a rare breed. Many of us are afraid of tests and exams, so we avoid them when we can. Is that a healthy attitude? Life is full of many different types of tests and challenges, so we can’t always run away from them.
Challenges prepare us for something greater in life. When untoward things happen, we learn so much in those moments. Instead of resisting and becoming negative, we can try to solve the problems without getting frustrated. When we are frustrated, our minds become disturbed. When our radar, the very guide within us is disturbed, there is no guidance from within, and we are unable to make the right decisions.
So, when challenges are there, try to be extra alert in a very open, receptive way. Pause, meditate, and ask yourself: “How can I go through this situation with excellence? Can I learn something from this?” Then you will become stronger. You will become a better version of yourself. Just as computers and software updates have versions, like a macOS version 10.15.5, we can also keep upgrading ourselves to become the next better version – more compassionate, kind, patient, thoughtful, wise, courageous and loving.
That is why my Guru, Babuji, said again and again, “Accept miseries.” When we don’t accept them, we fail to understand their purpose, and to what levels can they take us. Our opportunity to evolve is lost the moment we avoid miseries. So try to go through difficult situations peacefully, with a quiet heart, with a courageous heart.
When we pass through challenges, we emerge stronger than before if we cultivate the right attitude. If we don’t accept them, we will not learn anything, and nothing good will come out of it. If we merely accept, we remain mere human beings. But if we accept joyfully and cheerfully, then challenges bear spiritual fruits, and we see the beauty that emerges. This requires courage and self-confidence. Even when we fail, in the test of life we will pass with flying colours, because every situation is an opportunity to learn and grow. We will face life as it comes with courage and confidence. That is how we build our destiny. That is how we become the next, better version of ourselves.
Everyone goes through ordeals; no one is an exception. And as we master pain, pleasure, and everything else, we develop self-mastery. If we want to go to the next level of self-mastery, the trick is to graduate beyond acceptance to cheerful acceptance. And later on, we graduate to an even higher level, where we simply accept and move on without awareness of having done so. That is the state of absolute acceptance, when we are always in the present, like a sportsperson in the middle of a game – totally focused on the moment. We are not anticipating or expecting anything different, “It is as it is.” A person who is always anticipating better moments can never be happy.
Acceptance allows us to make peace with the world, make peace with ourselves, and master life. We confidently and gracefully pass through all situations, no matter how difficult they are — without being disturbed, without creating impressions in ourselves and in others. If at all our existence creates any ripples, they are only the fragrant subtle waves of purity and love.