“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~Pema Chodron
In my twenties I had dreams that I could fly. Literally. In my mind's eye, I had a vision of myself dancing in the air. I thought if I were an animal, I would be a graceful eagle soaring through the skies.
Never mind I am just shy of six feet tall and aerodynamically inept. I had a dream and I was going to follow it. Hence, I called the local circus teacher to pursue the hobby of aerial acrobatics.
My favorite nest became a piece of silk fabric also known as aerial tissue. I would spend hours dangling in the air while twirling, spiraling, and practicing an array of tricks.
If you have seen Cirque du Soleil, it’s likely you've seen this apparatus. The tissue is a colorful piece of fabric, typically hanging twenty to thirty feet in the air, which provides the landscape for acrobats to climb, dance, and perform a series of contortionist and ballerina-type moves.
I was a novice on all levels of performance, with the exception of a few good moves (in my opinion), but my passion was unstoppable.
One day I improperly rigged the tissue. While climbing fifteen feet into the air, the knot securing the tissue to a beam gave away. The result: a splattered me—two shattered wrists, fractured spinal vertebrae, and a broken foot.
Life as I knew it disappeared. In an instant, I lost my capacity to work, care for myself, and function independently.
At nine on Monday morning I was an avid athlete, massage therapist, and yoga instructor. At noon I was a hospital resident, infantile adult, and defeated cripple.
My life utterly and completely shattered, offering me one of my most challenging opportunities to become more fully awake.
I became 100 percent dependent on others for all my basic needs. I was fed, bathed, and taken to the bathroom. My nimble feet were reduced to wheels on a chair. My arms casted like prisoners. My back braced like steel.
The lessons I received were seemingly impossible to grasp in the moment, and yet they form the core of whom I am today.
Would I do it again? No. Would I do it differently if I could? Possibly. Would I trade in the personal growth I gained? Not in a million years.
As challenging, difficult, lonely, surprising, and frustrating as the experience was, as I began to view it as a doorway rather than an accident. I transformed my injury into an awakening.
Defying doctor’s prognosis and popular opinion, four months later, I was back on my feet teaching, giving healing sessions, and practicing yoga.
If you are up against the wall, if you have lost a loved one, your health, a job, a sense of direction or a feeling of hope, if you so choose, you too can transform your most difficult situation into opportunity.
Here is what I discovered on my journey:
5 Ways to Masterfully to Navigate Life Challenges
1. Accept, invite, and embrace.
Week one in the hospital was close to unbearable. I screamed, cried, and grieved a lot. It wasn’t until my good friend Guy visited that I began to accept my situation. He said, “Wow this is a hard gift to receive, isn’t it?”
If I were a cat and his question a hairball, I would have thrown up on him. Inherent in his question was the presupposition that this was a gift. Second, it was something I could receive.
As his question sank in, I could begin to see the wisdom in it. If I was in this situation, at some core level, a part of me was choosing it. How did I know this? Because I was in the situation!
Why not turn this into a gift? And that’s exactly what I did. From that day forward, I started my morning by asking myself, “How can I receive this gift?” In the most challenging of moments I would rely on this question to help me mentally frame my situation leading to positive emotional states and actions.
This question helped open my vision to see who, what, when, and how to take my best next steps for healing. I moved out of resistance, which blinds vision, into acceptance.
Trust your life situation, at a soul level, is being created purposefully for your growth and learning. Invite your experience in. Embrace it. All of it! The sad, the bad, the scary and the ugly bits are bed mates, albeit hidden, with the joy, happiness, surprises, and miracles to be found in your situation.
Choose powerful questions and attitudes to help you receive your experience. Turn your life challenge into a gift. What do you do with a gift? You receive it. Acknowledge it. Look for the value it can bring into your life. Ask yourself how your life situation can be your best opportunity.
2. Know that you don’t have to have all the answers at once.
Learn to take one step at a time. Bring your awareness to the present moment. Identify what you need to do for that day, that hour, or that moment in time.
If you have lost a job, focus on what one action you need to take now for your next step. Do you need to make a phone call? Answer an email? Small steps build bridges. A path will be revealed.
Notice if you're letting “thought trains” overrun you. Are you projecting fearful thoughts into the future? Worrying about your next ten months will not help your present moment. Stop it. Ask instead, what is the best place to focus my energy, now, for my best results?
3. Use your imagination like currency.
Did you know imagination is a type of currency? The images and pictures you create in your head are a form of energetic wealth.
Crystal clear images danced in my third eye daily. I created a world where I saw myself surfing, dancing, walking, and moving freely. I saw my life where I was fully healed.
It’s as though I traveled the world without taking a step. The inner world, that is.
In my outer reality I was laying flat on my back in the hospital.
What is your life challenge? Has your heart been broken? Have you lost a loved one? If so, recognize, the inner canvas of the mind is one of your richest resources to generate your healing.
Developing strong imaginary faculties is a practice. Start out loud. Speak your vision. Draw your vision. Write it in words. Assign a scent to it. Associate a feeling. Listen to it. Bring it to life with all your senses.
4. Look for the life lesson.
Peer straight in the eye of your challenge and say, “I see you. What are you here to teach me? I can handle it. Give it to me. I am here to learn. Show me.”
Take the nastiest, most confrontational, unexpected, and inconvenient of situations—corruption, infidelity, imprisonment, betrayal, murder—and face them. Don’t back down. Keep asking, “What are you here to teach me?” Now, listen. Not with your mind, with your life.
Notice who shows up to help you, observe what books are given to you, what movies do you feel compelled to watch, what are you dreaming about at night? Pay attention to signs, symbols, and synchronicity.
Guess what I discovered when I faced my life lesson? I discovered I was incredibly lonely, insecure, and fearful. I learned I was a great giver and a horrible receiver.
I realized I was constantly busy to mask my emotional pain.
Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising I was stopped in my tracks. Perhaps I was in line to learn about receiving and I put myself in the absolute perfect situation to do so.
5. Realize you are helping heal the collective through your growth.
Humans are deeply interconnected. On the surface we appear separate. However, underneath it all we operate collectively. The “collective unconscious” is a storehouse of information, ideas, and programming which informs our daily life and actions.
Your growth process, as you become who you are through the transformative process of life challenges, contributes to the whole. You are not alone with your problem. Thousands if not millions of others have gone through, or will go through, what you are facing.
Consider your life challenge a request to update yourself, and therefore, us. You, as a technology, are being asked to advance. New installs such as creativity, imagination, and collaboration are needed. Downloads of emotional intelligence, humility, and compassion are the operating programs required.
Your experience is an essential piece to healing the whole.