There’s a mysterious place called Octopus Springs in Yellowstone National Park. Octopus Springs is one of the unique places on Earth that’s labelled an “extreme environment.”
For life to exist here it’s poised with ‘against all odds’ defying challenges. The fact that life can even exist at all is nothing short of a miracle.
But life does exist. Against all odds, it finds a way.
Humans have more in common with these extreme environments than we might initially think. Although we have water, sunlight, electricity, heat and shelter, there are still periods of our lives – sometimes long unbearable periods – that we wonder how life can be so cruel, hard and impossible.
If collapsing to your knees in utter despair while your warm beating heart is ripped from your cold, lifeless body isn’t considered extreme – well, quite frankly, I hope to hell I never have to experience a truly “extreme environment.”
We all say the same thing, at the climax of our despair when we are pounding our hands into the Earth, we beg and plead; “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”
There is an answer.
You are alive. Many causes and conditions came together and you were born. All sentient beings suffer.
To exist is to suffer.
We can’t enjoy the sun filled ups without surviving the cloud covered downs. Life is meant to be a spattering of good and bad.
The problem is that the bad is utterly debilitating; you can’t even compare the heart wrenching downs against the sun filled ups. The bad knocks the life right out of you; it can leave you gasping for air amidst a pool of cold loneliness.
Know this my friend – you are not alone.
I’m serious; whatever you are going through, no matter how difficult, sad, unfair or turbulent, countless others have felt that depth of despair. Countless others right now, this very second are feeling that level of depth and despair. This is not to take away from or minimize the gravity of your pain; but it is comforting to know that you are never alone.
Why am I being punished?
Let’s get this straight. No one is punishing you.
It’s a matter of fact that every human being will go through aging, sickness, death and loss. You’re not special or un-special for that matter. You are human.
You are not to blame, there is nothing you can do to change it – the reality is, and sorry for this – our existence here is only temporary. We can’t move onto to whatever is next for us without going through this journey of good and bad.
The good news is that there are a few tips we can incorporate into our lives to help survive the extremes; to tackle the low points with an elevated mind of hope.
One thing is certain in life; we do not have much control over external situations. We are so scared of losing control, and losing our precious grip on the happy moments that we resist every ounce of suffering.
One important way to cope with the hard times is to stop resisting them.
This won’t change the fact that you are suffering – you’ll still be sick, lonely or jobless but what it will do is give you the wisdom to know and accept the things that are out of your control.
Some things you simply can not change. Acceptance is relaxing the tension, letting go of the clenched jaw and resting the energy and pull of the mind.
These difficult times, like everything else in life, shall pass. Stop creating more stress in your life by dwelling on what you cannot change.
When we choose acceptance instead of resistance we develop a relaxed, peaceful inner energy; a quiet calm that makes us strong – strong like a rock. When the happy moments inevitably shatter around us into shards of loss, disappointment, jealousy, anger and betrayal, this cultivated inner strength gives us the tools to pick up the broken pieces and put them back together – back together into a stronger version of you.
While we are putting ourselves back together we need to remember to get lots and lots of rest.
When times are tough we need to rest; we need to relax, reduce stressors and quiet the energy of our minds.
There is a reason why they say sleep is the best medicine. Like a car sputtering on fumes you will break down without refueling your body. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, you need to rest.
Relaxation is the key to survival, relax your body and your mind.
Another profound coping skill is to develop a spiritual faith.
I don’t care if you believe in Christianity, Buddhism or Alien reincarnation; develop hope and faith in what’s next for you and your loved ones. Think about your journey and your own evolution. Developing faith can help you cope with the hard times, your values and beliefs can guide you through difficult losses.
You might need to dig deep here and connect with your inner spirit. Learn to meditate and practice stillness. Grow your branches like a sturdy oak tree and reach for new horizons. You may be hurting but you can’t be knocked down.
Last but not least in order to get through tough times we need to keep a positive attitude and change our perspective. There are many tips and advice on how to cultivate a change in attitude but one key way to do this is to begin a gratitude practice.
It might seem impossible to be grateful for anything when you’re going through despair, but there is always something to be grateful for. Always!
Think about the things you do have, instead of what you’ve lost. Make a list right now of 4 things you are grateful for.
- The sun is shining
- The house is warm and cozy
- Enjoying a steaming cup of tea
- A warm phone call from a friend
Like I said there is always something to be thankful for.
There are no easy answers, with our existence comes suffering, a suffering that no amount of money, status, fame or popularity can help us escape from.
The only thing we can do is rest in the fact that we have some control over how we react to our low points.
Accept and roll with the ebb and flow of life. This too shall pass, and before you know it you’ll have slid over this rough wave and you’ll ride high onto the next one.
Featured photo credit: Copyright Moyan Brenn