Being with Difficulty

Life isn’t always easy.  Sometimes our lives are just plain difficult, or even painful, and we can’t immediately change it.  We need to “BE” with difficulty.

Modern society doesn’t teach this essential skill, but in fact teaches the opposite.  We are bombarded with images from the media showing us how to be more popular, prettier, smell better, more comfortable.  There is no market in the acceptance of one’s current state of affairs.

Consequently, most people who experience difficulty immediately look for something to “fix” it.  Maybe some chocolate will help.  How about a movie?  Call a friend?  Something to drink?

It’s not that these “fixes” are bad, it’s just that our experience of difficulty has something to teach us, and if we don’t learn acceptance and patience, we miss the learning and healing that can happen.

Living naturally, Mother Earth is the best teacher.  We learn patience because we have no choice.  We must wait for storms to pass, for morning to arrive, for a deer to walk close enough to shoot.  And while we are waiting, we experience cold, wet, hunger, boredom, thirst, and more.  Sometimes our response will be fear, a thinking response that asks, “What if?”  What if the storm continues and I get more cold and wet?  What if I can’t find food today?  What if a dangerous animal finds me?

When we lack the ability to change things like the weather, we learn to accept.  We learn patience because we see that nothing stays the same, and our patience is rewarded through success in hunting or fishing or making a bow drill fire or watching the sun come out.  Eventually, if we keep at it, we succeed.

We also learn to face our fears and heal our inner wounds (which is the source of the fear that is created by our thinking).  We gain confidence in ourselves and faith in our connection with our Sources of Life.

Unfortunately, we aren’t encouraged to learn these essential skills today.  If the weather is cold or wet, we go home.  This applies to our social skills, too.  Acceptance and patience are necessary for anyone who wants to be a good friend, but people who have not learned patience and acceptance will cross off a “so-called-friend” and look for new ones without ever learning the gift of a different perspective that their ex-friend had to offer.

I see the lack of skill to be with difficulty (and gain the insights that come with it) most dramatically with today’s youth.  As technology continues to offer quicker fixes to our emotional state of discomfort, children are learning that they don’t have to change and grow emotionally.  They needn’t be concerned with any internal struggles if they can easily change their outer reality.  PlayStation, cell phones, YouTube, etc.  These are worlds to escape into, away from any discomfort in the real world.  Parents make the situation worse if they habitually follow their natural impulse to make everything better.  Sometimes children need to hear, “This is the way it is, and you must learn to deal with it.”


Fortunately, the lessons of nature and the skills of our ancestors are still available to us today.  The cycles of storm and sun are perpetual, as they should be.  When we learn patience and acceptance to wait out the storms, we find that we can be at peace even as we experience discomfort.  And then the sun comes out again.

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