An email dropped into my inbox that made me reconsider a few things. It came from the Parmarth Niketan ashram in Rishikesh.
Just a little while ago we were thinking and reading about resolutions. Now we’re reading about how/if we’ve been able to implement those (alas, or not).
And then this, from Swami Chidanand Saraswati:
At this beautiful time of the New Year, it is the time when most people pray that the New Year will be easier, better, more successful than the year which has passed. However, at this time when we pray and make our own resolutions, it is so important to remember the ultimately the purpose of our lives is not just to have things be as easy as possible, nor to be as successful and/or prosperous as possible. The point of our lives is to realize our own true divine nature, to awaken and unfold into the divinity of ourselves. In many cases, that process requires both inner struggle as well as patience. […]
So frequently, people come to me and say, “Oh, why has God given me so much strife? Why has He put so many obstacles in my path? Why is He punishing me? Please remove these obstacles from my path.” We must realize that challenges and hurdles are not punishments. Yes, the law of karma plays a large role in what we receive in this lifetime, but even things which may seem like “bad” karma, are actually opportunities for growth. Through pushing and struggling our wings become fuller and we become able to soar.
It’s of course true that challenges make us grow. But how about bad things happening in our lives when we’re trying to live the best life possible, the most truthful life, be the best person we can be? That’s just not fair, right?
Whenever I realise that my thoughts gravitate towards this vicious cycle of thinking, I try to remember the words of Swami Sivananda (of course he’s been asked about that!): He says – I paraphrase – that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not terms of the Divine. These are labels we humans attach to things, situations, behaviour and, of course, people. All needs to exist in this world, and if there was no bad, there wouldn’t be any good either. The two are just different.
I find this a hard pill to swallow. A few days later, this thoughtful email arrived from yoga and qigong teacher Mimi Kuo-Deemer:
At last, the wild, capricious and unpredictable Year of the Horse is ready to reign in and step into the stable. For some, this past horse year was fantastic – fast-paced, full of freedom and charged with adventure. For most, though, the horse year meant lots going on and a rough ride in the saddle (or many falls out of it!). Fortunately, the chaos of the horse year is ending soon. This coming year we can dismount and take a rest with the quieter and more gentle sheep. Caring, sensitive, romantic and creative, the sheep (also the goat, or ram — it’s the same character in Chinese, yang 羊) brings time to heal through its kind and harmonious nature. Though the official first date of the Chinese New Year isn’t until February 19, the year of the sheep starts soon — February 4 (the sooner the better!). Though shy and a bit insecure, the sheep is also known for its determination; it only walks straight, and never careens side to side or moves backwards. Its determination, however, can also be a setback: shortsightedness can make a sheep feel discouraged and down. Remember to keep your chin up this year and let any tendencies toward pessimism be softened with good company, an easy breath and an open mind.
So if you’ve been struggling with the challenges the ‘capricious Year of the Horse‘ has been throwing in your way, don’t despair, the Year of the Sheep starts soon: Let’s count the days until 4 February – and let’s also not forget that challenges have been, and will be there. Always.
What is your way of dealing with challenges? Can you share any tips?