Every now and then life throws us in the deep end and tells us to swim. We find ourselves in overwhelming situations that we don’t know how to deal with. It might be the death of a loved one, a personal illness or a case of serious depression. In this post I want to give you a few ways to deal with the pain and hardships that you will encounter in your life. I hope it will inspire you just a little bit.
The inevitability of hardships
The first thing I want to talk about is the fact that pain and hardships are inevitable. No one can escape them. Every single one of us, at some point in our life, will experience pain, suffering and hardships of some form or another.
My goal in saying this is not to depress you. Rather my goal is to inspire you. How is this inspiring you might ask? Well it is simple. Being aware of the fact that you WILL experience suffering is a cause for hope because, unlike many other people, you now have a chance to prepare for it. And people who prepare are never as badly affected as those who don’t.
Suffering, pain and hardships are inevitable. Make sure your preparation for them is also just as inevitable. This is the most important step.
How to deal with pain and hardships in your life
The tips that I am about to give you come from two places, my own personal experience and the experiences of history’s greatest meditation masters. Sometimes it is better to hear some pithy and real tips as opposed to some dry and theoretical ones. I will try, therefore, to keep these as practical as possible.
If you have any other tips to add please leave a comment. The comments are often the best part of this blog and I know that they help a lot of people out there.
Realize that it is your hardships that make you better
Picture this. You are in the center of the Indian desert. You are just out of high school; young, naive and egotistical. You are on a bit of a spiritual journey but at the same time looking for adventure. And then after just arriving in a place miles from anywhere you wake up in the middle of the night vomiting, convulsing and shaking. You are days from a hospital and you are really sick. Things start to look bleak.
That is the situation I found myself in on my first trip to India. I had eaten some poisonous food and for the next three days I lay in bed sick as a dog. It didn’t matter what I did, nothing seemed to help. I started to get quite frightened as I knew I was too sick to travel and there were no doctors around. But then something amazing happened, I was paid a visit by a very lovely Tibetan Lama. He came into my room and said one thing and one thing only. I have never ever forgotten it as it had such a profound impact on my life. He said:
“I am not interested in how much money you have or what family you belong to. I am interested in how you deal with hardships. That is the only thing that matters. That defines your future.”
It is the truest thing anyone has ever said to me about suffering and hardships. It is the hardships that define your character. Everyone is charming and lovely when the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming but hardly anyone is compassionate, patient and loving when they are sick, ill or under pressure. How you deal with hardships determines your character.
If you want to learn to deal with pain and hardship you need to realize that you have an amazing opportunity to grow as a person. You can prove to yourself that you are strong. You can show yourself that you have strength of character and will-power. The amazing thing about hardships and pain is that they present you with a rare opportunity to grow into a strong and decent human being.
Realize that pain and hardships won’t last
There is a great truth in this universe that applies to everything. There is no corner of the world that it does not touch, no depth of the ocean that it does not find, no planet in space that it cannot reach. That truth applies to everyone and everything. That truth is impermanence. Nothing lasts.
We have heard it all before. What goes up must come down. What comes together must eventually part. What is composite will soon break. What is accumulated will one day be dispersed. Everything in our universe is impermanent. Nothing can escape it.
As depressing as this sounds it also has an upside. The next time you are going through some pain or hardships you can remind yourself that it won’t last. You can look at everything in history and feel secure in knowing that, no matter how bad things seem now, the problems won’t last forever. What a wonderful thing! Like all things, suffering is also impermanent.
Realize that you are not alone
There is something very powerful about knowing that other people are going through what you are going through. Realizing that you are not alone is an extremely good way to deal with pain and hardships.
Let’s take the example of someone with severe depression. Depression can make you feel pretty alone. In fact, 90% of the time depression makes you feel so isolated and self-orientated that you don’t have a thought about other people for long stretches of time. I was a bit like this in my teen years.
But when you open up to the fact that you are not alone you get a boost of some really powerful strength. You get a sense of community, of friendship, of companionship – even if you haven’t met anyone else with the condition. Just knowing that there are other people out there like you can really make you feel good.
The next step in this idea is to realize that thousands of other people have gone through what you are going through and come out the other end. They have made it through and won. They haven’t died, lost hope or given up. They have faced the very same thing as you (whatever it is) and they have come out the other end. Never forget this.
Suggestions from the readers
I don’t want to say anymore on this topic. Here at The Daily Mind we are lucky enough to have some super intelligent and wise readers – much smarter than I am. I would therefore like to open the comments section up to your ideas and suggestions.
Please take two minutes to leave your suggestions and advice on how to deal with pain and hardships. If you have been through some tough times and found something particularly useful then please let us know. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it might seem – your suggestion could really help someone.
Originally posted on January 14, 2009 @ 12:58 pm