Why Does Everything Have To Be So Hard?

Over the last several weeks I have been asking myself this question a lot.  But it is the wrong question.

By way of background, in the last few months I have had major cervical spine injury confined to my house for six weeks in a hard collar and am now less confined but still in a soft collar with lots of limitations.  Most limitations come now from my body – the muscles they cut through in my back and neck, and just my neck altogether, plus the atrophy that occurred by going from pretty active to complete inactivity.  Healing is slower than I would like, a lot slower.  During this time my daughter was rejected by her birth mother she was reconnected with this past summer.  She is suffering and it is hard for her and for me.  And as I am trying to get healing and restore my body and get back in balance roadblocks to doing the things that I think I need to do for healing keep coming up.  So I get frustrated.  There is constant conflict between my husband and I and I am not sure that we can work through our differences and I’m not in shape enough to put much effort into it now.  So the marriage is hard.  And I ask the universe why do things have to be so hard?

The thing is that things are hard because of my mind.  Certainly things are challenging and emotional issues.  I have a teacher who tells me open up to things being hard and once you fully open to things being hard then they won’t be.  Not necessarily because they things I find hard will change but because I will change – my thoughts about them, my feelings, and opening to the universe allows change.  I get that.  And I still find that hard at times although it is getting easier.

My guru has a teaching that says surrender and staying in the present moment are the same thing.  I always had trouble with the idea of surrender and the how to surrender in the midst of trying to function and do the next right thing.  Attaching surrender to just staying in the moment I could understand.

Hard is a concept of the mind just like easy is.  When I can actually stay in the present moment while I might feel challenged I don’t feel like things are overwhelmingly hard such that I want to pick a fight with the universe.  Really hard exists for me when I am attached to things being a certain way.  Like healing from major surgery should not take this long.  Like wanting my children to always be happy, healthy, etc. when I know they too have come into this lifetime to do certain work and I can’t interfere with that.  My daughter came here, at least in part, to work through what it means to be abandoned.  Hard is an expectation that her struggle would not bring up my own abandonment issues because “I worked through that already”.

Hard and easy therefore come back to attachment and non-attachment.  They come up when I have an expectation that things are supposed to be different than they actually are.  When I think things are not, from a universe perspective, perfect exactly they way they are.  Letting go of expectations about outcomes is not easy for me.  Its really hard to sit with ok, full healing from surgery is going to take the time it takes and just be ok with that.  Because I get into my mind and I want to plan things, to manage things.  I know there is incredible arrogance on my part to assume that things should be different – i.e., that my daughter should not have to suffer so much with being abandoned when she has had two loving parents.  But nothing but her working through it is going to change it because its not about me.  Even a neck surgery I didn’t plan isn’t really about me.  What is about me?  How I choose to sit in each present moment and my ability to do that.

So after I had a big fit this past week about things being so hard I decided that I needed to change what I’m doing.  I need more meditation and less doing.  More being and less thinking.  Space between my thoughts.  I find consistency with this hard alone at home.  It is where I struggle the most in my practices.

Then I was reminded that I have to ask for help.  Over and over again perhaps.  Help from others, help from God, help from my higher self….  however, one looks at such things.  I’m getting better at that.  Slowly.

And gratitude.  Yes, I had a major surgery that changed many things in life or at least put many things I wanted on hold.  (check the wants and don’t wants…. note to self).  But my spinal cord is no longer endangered which means I can hug my children, walk, and feed myself.  Things I admit to being attached to.  So gratitude.  I go back to teaching yoga tonight.  A thing I love and have missed.  My daughter is essentially ok, she just has work to do, like we all do.  More gratitude.  My son who struggles in other ways is ok and he self esteem is in tact.  More gratitude.

Final note to self, its my thoughts that make things hard or easy and how attached I am to things being the way I think they should be.  So when I get space in between my thoughts through practices, my sadhana, things are easier.  When I am able to get to a place where I am not attached, or at least less attached, to things being a certain way then things are easier.  At the end of the day, breathe, meditate, and scrape your tongue and everything is ok exactly as it is right this moment.

No Mud No Lotus

I hated this expression when I first heard it in a yoga class.  I’m not sure why but I think what came up for me around this was “where is the the lotus?”  I was so lost in the mud I could not see the lotus; so lost in the struggle I could not see the joy.  And, even when I got a glimpse of the lotus, my cynical mind would tell me that flowers die and look at all the mud on it, not seeing the beautiful flower at all really.

Today, sometimes, I can see the flower as a beautiful flower.  That has been a hard fought battle.

I have been neck deep in the struggle all of my life.  In the earlier years it was a struggle just to survive.  Survive things at home and then just survive on my own at a pretty young age without support.  Making choices that don’t make sense to me even now.  When I look back at my life I often wonder how I did not become a serial killer, end up homeless addicted to something, or just die from one of the many horrible things I did to my body.  Those moments of Grace were huge for me.  Those times when I was able to go left instead of right and make a choice that would radically change my life.

And now that I am older with a family of my own, it is a struggle to find meaning, to let go.  To remember that many of the horrible things that happened are in fact over and that I can relax now.  To know that I don’t have to live in a constant fight or flight response.  Fear had become such a part of my life that I did not recognize it anymore and would actually tell people I was not a worrier even though I was terrified nearly all the time.  It has been so hard to learn, even a little bit, to relax into what is and tell my mind to let go.

From all objective standards my life is good.  I have two amazing children, I am working on the marriage thing but it is not horrible even when it is hard, I am financially secure and don’t need to work, and I spend much of my time doing what I want whether that is yoga, visiting with friends, therapy and lots of it.  But even with all of this goodness, I struggle to find meaning.  My mind will tell me that my kids don’t really need me and that I have nothing to offer the world – that there is no reason for me to be here.  I know on another level that my children do need me and they would be devastated without me.  The struggle is with my mind and the feelings of worthlessness that I have cultivated over the years.  This is not a surprise given where I have come from.

My life has undergone tremendous shifts at different times.  Externally.  Huge shifts that changed the course of my external life.  But while things changed on the outside very little changed on the inside.  I was looking for an outside solution to an inside problem.  The last three years have been working on the inside problem.  The problem of me, my mind and how much I believe my mind the minute it comes up with a thought.

Witness consciousness is a terribly hard thing to achieve.  I get moments of it now, sometimes long moments when I can observe my mind and my feelings without being disturbed by them.  It is there that I find a little peace.  And it is in working to get there that now I get glimpses of the lotus.  I get moments of joy.  Like teaching yoga and talking with a person new to yoga who says she was so terrified but now is feeling relaxed and is so enjoying coming to class.  To watch that transformation on someone else knowing what it was the first time I relaxed and let go of my mind in a yoga class (which might have been the first time I relaxed in such a way in my life).

My children are beautiful.  I have amazing friends.  A therapist who has gone to battle with and for me relentlessly to bring me to that place of freedom.  I live in a place with many beautiful things.  The real lotus for me now though is none of these things.  The lotus for me is in being able to rest my mind and personality so that I can have peace and see and enjoy each of those things in the moment.