Holding Difficulty

At the heart of any difficulty, challenge, struggle, or fear is an unanswered question.

Almost always, that question will boil down to some variant of, “Will I be OK?”

Not knowing the answer, we get into worry and problem solving, and away from the causeless peace and harmony of the moment.

Like a small smirch on otherwise white piece of cloth, we give extraordinary and undue attention to the thing that seems “out of place.”

Can we, instead, see the whole picture? Can we understand that one poorly written book does not necessarily mean the whole library is lacking in worthy works?

As with questions, can we hold the difficulty we are currently experiencing? As hard as it is to believe, the difficulty is a gift. It is there to teach, to guide, and to help you evolve into a fuller, more authentic version of yourself—the version you are working towards realising.

To hold the difficulty means to welcome it. Give it a space at the table. Question it. Take care of it to some extent and, especially, listen to it.

It does not mean panic, slam the door shut, throw a fit, or otherwise attempt to remove the discomfort as fast as humanly possible.

Pilots climb out of turbulence incrementally, not all at once. So it can be with us.

By holding the difficulty, we let it do what it needs to do without intervention. We are able to bear the discomfort, knowing it is for our highest good in some way that is not immediately apparent. As we engage in this hands off-yet-highly-hands-on process, we find the charge lessens, and our understanding increases.

Slowly but surely, the difficulty feeling though its job is done, starts to fade away.

Then we see the difficulty was not a difficulty at all but a slightly jagged stepping stone that strengthened an area in us that was in need of attention.

Companionship

Companionship is an aspect of equanimity.

The relationship you have with yourself and the relationships you have with others are and will be subject to a plethora of phenomena beyond your control.

Sometimes happiness comes. Sometimes anger. Coming together. Needing space. Good fortune. Bad fortune. Heartache. Heart healing. Exuberance. Sadness.

It can be a real mix.

If we have expectations — desire — for what these relationships are supposed to look and feel like, we are setting ourselves up to be thrashed around this way and that when what is happening comes into conflict (as it inevitably will) with our beliefs about what should be happening. We will then find ourselves in a state of reaction, pulled out and away from our centre, where our sense of self lives.

Instead of expecting things to be a certain way all the time, what can happen when we commit to companionship with ourselves? What can happen when we commit to companionship with others?

We can welcome all.

We can welcome all of the experience. The ups and downs, the sudden shifts, the wrong turns, the right turns, and everything in between.

Companionship means we have committed to the journey—not to any one particular feeling, experience, or outcome. It means we are able to weather all storms because we have given up our preferences and expectations.

Of course smooth sailing feels great. However, is it not when the going gets tough that we form our strongest bonds and learn our most beneficial lessons?

Companionship means we live in the moment. We follow the simple instructions of the moment where we see everything we experience as a new puzzle piece and, beyond that, a beautiful gift we have given to ourselves.

In companionship, we can embrace the happiness and we can embrace the difficulty because we have made a commitment to the journey and the process of love. In fact, it becomes difficult to differentiate the two.

If we can start to see everything as love — the light and the dark — we can wonder, “What is not love?”

What or who is not on our side?

What is lacking?

Pleasure and Pain

Very few look at the experience of pleasure as a problem to be solved. That judgment is strictly reserved for pain.

As soon as we have a problem, somebody hurts us, something goes wrong, or whatever it is that causes us pain, we go into problem-solving mode to, as quickly as possible, remove the pain, as if it were some kind of bug crawling up our leg. That’s understandable.

Given that we find this and that and that in this in duality, we could easily be similarly squeamish about pain’s “opposite”—pleasure.

Pleasure is a kind of tease, at cause for addictive types of behavior. We get happy for some reason, the happiness fades, and then we feel a need to get happy again. We become consumers. Consumers of experience that create pleasure. Look at the world. It more or less operates on this simple paradigm.

And more than consumers, we become addicts. We become addicted to sources of pleasure, which can easily cause us to lose and give ourselves up in pursuit of the next happy feeling, and the next, and the next… ad infinitum.

At some point, we need to hop off of the wheel—the wheel of pain and pleasure. The constant cycle between the two grows unbearably frustrating after enough go arounds. We tire of the drama, we tire of the seeking, and we start to yearn for a deeper, more stable experience.

Rumi once said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

He was talking about the space beyond duality, which is the space you are already occupying right now and here, in this very moment.

In this field — this space — there is total completeness. Utter and absolute perfection. Nothing needs to change here. Nothing can be improved or diminished. All our mentally-constructed labels of this, that, good, bad, pleasure, pain dissolve and disappear. In fact, they were never there to begin with. They were dreams.

What we are left with is one of the most fundamental truths of existence that our project-oriented minds and egos just won’t believe. All is already well.

If we can get this — really get this — with more than just our minds but with our felt sense of being, we can access the universally accessible and sustainable source of joy that is ever present and never ending.

We can smile for no reason. And keep smiling. Just because.