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The Upside of Adversity

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We have all had our share of pain, illness, and adversity. When I was in college, about to fly to Europe to the World Gymnastics Championships, my motorcycle was struck by an automobile and I sustained a broken right femur-my thigh bone was shattered into about forty pieces, according to the doctor. Looking back, years later, despite all the searing pain, disability and depression, and lengthy rehabilitation, I believe it may have been one of the most spiritually useful things that ever happened to me. It shook me “up” and made me consider the bigger picture of life and death. It set into motion some new directions. (I do not, however, recommend broken bones, illness, or other injury as a method of personal evolution.) It's just that we can, if we examine the bigger picture, find blessings in adversity. If we are psychologically healthy, we do not seek pain, injury, or illness, but we can appreciate that everything contains its opposite-an upside and a downside.

Whether or not adversity is a self-sabotage or a spiritual lesson, when a misfortune does occur, something rather surprising can happen. Many survivors of serious maladies-with all the pain and suffering-report experiencing a kind of inner peace they had not felt before. Pain has a way of clearing the subconscious scorecard, as if the adversity and suffering pays off sins real or imagined. It's as if you finally get punished for all those things you said or didn't say, did or didn't do, and the scales are finally balanced. The psyche finds ingenious, sometimes tragic ways to find peace. I raise this topic to make it conscious, so that you can find inner peace through service (as in the twelfth gateway), not through pain.

Most of us have at one time or another experienced a need to do penance, to pay off debts, or to ask forgiveness for past mistakes. As you discover your innate worth, you come to see that life is tough enough without adding self-created difficulties; you begin to embrace the joys of life and to bring more joy to others.

From: Everyday Enlightenment


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