From a more spiritual perspective, the picture above of the lotus on the water reminds me of the often used slogan: “No mud; no lotus,” which refers to the necessity of your experiencing the nastier aspects of life in order to produce the most beautiful flower of your higher awareness.
Life challenges are the lotus flower’s growing environment beneath the reflective water. The shimmering pool above hides the boot-sucking, ankle-deep, organic muck lying below the water’s surface that often produces the prettiest lotus blooms.
The obvious analogy is that those challenging situations that often give you the most grief also provide the necessary “training ground” for developing your strongest and most powerful life expressions—because like it or not, they build your character. They often show you who you really are and what you are made of besides the rawness of your emotions and your natural reactions to life’s difficulties. How you approach each life challenge will determine how strong your lotus stem will grow to support the expanse of your future blossom.
The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and world-famous peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, put out a 2014 version of that Zen-like title: No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. Honestly I have not read it, but reviewers say it mentions his previous writings, and I have read many of those. This man has known challenges throughout his life, and he knows what it takes to rise above life’s unpleasantness. He also knows the proper context in which to frame/view his life, which is something you may be presently encountering in your own situations.
And when it comes down to finding your truth, one of the most important life strategies you must learn to define is how to successfully deal with a life challenge, because you will face them over and over throughout your life.
That challenge can be most anything from the simplest decisions on what to do or where to go that day depending on your finances or companionship, or it might be life defining—like how to face your own or a loved one’s serious health issues or to even contemplate your eventual mortality.
I mention the term “strategies” a lot because developing a strategy—a plan—to handle difficult situations is what gets us through the tough times. Life strategies help us approach a pending problem by setting a plan in place to help us through the tough decisions or the more difficult realities that we must eventually face.
Strategies can help shift us out of the raw emotions of natural reactivity (horror, avoidance, anger, grief, even denial) to any discomfort or hardship before us, and into a less-emotional plan to deal with the pending difficulty in the best possible way for our person, and to help maintain our sanity which may feel like it’s slipping away by the second.
Is it always possible to view our lives so rationally and unemotionally?
No, not at all. That’s why it becomes so important to distance ourselves in perspective from the immediacy of the possible trauma effects we might be feeling until we are capable of more properly assessing what is actually happening to us, as well as determining who all may be affected by any repercussions of our actions or inactions pertaining to the situation itself.
While that sounds easy enough, it definitely isn’t.
How I personally might develop a life strategy for facing general challenges is by charting the situation all out on paper—putting the challenge faced on one page, another page would list how this challenge might affect my life for better or worse, another page would then be created to define the information I still needed to better understand the implications of choosing one possible solution over another one, along with the best options for dealing with the challenge itself, and the last page would be to address the true emotions of what facing this challenge means to me—both in the now and in the future. While you want to step out of emotions to do a proper strategy assessment, you do still need to examine and actually accept the emotions that you are having toward the situation that you may be facing.
I’ll give you an example: Nothing can kick you in the gut faster or suddenly shift your life more completely than hearing your loved one has a terminal illness where nothing can be done to help them, or even worse, to hear that your loved one has suddenly died. It simply shocks you to your core! Sometimes it is SO traumatic to you (mentally, emotionally, even physically) that you feel you just can’t deal with the news—you don’t want to hear it—you don’t want to think about it—you don’t want to ….do much of anything but collapse on the floor, sobbing your heart out for the loss that you either are feeling or know you will soon feel.
In truth, sometimes life sucks. Sometimes our choices or options for handling the difficult situation are fairly restricted. And sometimes our only choice in the matter is in our attitude toward whatever we may now have to face.
There’s a pertinent Viktor Frankl quote pertaining to this attitude choice (and if you still haven’t read his book, you really should): “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Also, I do want to emphasize that there are folks who can help you decide how to face your life challenge whatever it might be—doctors, therapists, counselors, etc., even friends and family members might help you in defining your true options in the challenging situation before you.
But to me, no matter what you must deal with, the best strategy is the one where you assess your situation in complete self-honesty to provide you with all the information necessary to choose your best possible path forward. Only then will you have the peace of mind that whatever the outcome you have chosen, you made an educated decision that seemed in your or your loved one’s best interest at the time.
And then know in your heart that was the very best decision that you could make for you or for them.