Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


On Surviving Difficult Times

posted by Beyond Blue

I found the following excerpt in Jack Kornfield’s new beautiful book, “A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times.”

One of the world’s greatest examples of how to survive difficult times is Nelson Mandela, the first president of modern South Africa. After twenty-seven years of imprisonment on Robben Island, he remained unbowed and dignified, gracious, tender and kind, and curious about everything that was happening around him. The one who knows inside him never took what was happening to him personally. In this way he was able to maintain his freedom even while in bondage, to retain his dignity even in the most degrading conditions, to continue practicing compassion in the face of hostility, and to respond to the hatefulness that surrounded him with an unwavering love.

Although a solitary man jailed in a distant country, Nelson Mandela has become an inspiration for millions of people suffering through less dramatic but equally challenging situations. Yet the one who knows in Nelson Mandela is the same on who knows inside of you. You were born with the same potential for wisdom, the same insight, the same strength and love, all that you need to carry you through the difficulties that you encounter.

To heal you must remember who you really are. Then no matter what happens to you, you can rely on this innate courage, you can trust your own wise heart because nothing and no one can take them from you. You are free like Nelson Mandela.

One of my spiritual teachers … Ajahn Chah, used to ask me: “Which has had more value in your life, where have you grown more and learn more, where have you become more wise, where have you learned patience, understanding, equanimity, and forgiveness—in you hard times, or the good ones?”

When we come to understand the paradox that what we most value in our lives was often born out of conflict and struggle, we can begin to get a glimmer that perhaps one day we may begin to embrace our difficulties and find grace in them, even if that day is not today. Even the worst losses become workable over time. They become part of your life story and destiny: they become an important part of who you have become.

Through surviving our difficulties, tenderness and compassion naturally arise. Our hardships are not only something intensely personal and intimate but also something we share with the entire world. Everything you have survived is responsible for who you are today. It is part of your heritage and cannot be taken from you; it lives in you in the same mysterious way that everything and everyone you have ever lost remains alive and present in your heart.

Artwork by the talented Anya Getter.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Crystal1

    I noticed a few errors with word usage in this article and have to ask you about one word in particular. It is in this sentence here, “When we come to understand the paradox that what we most value in our lies was often born out of conflict and struggle…..” The word I question is “lies” and wonder if you mean “lives?” Thank you for your response.

  • http://www.thereseborchard.com Beyond Blue

    Sorry about that typo. Yes, it’s “lives”. I corrected it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment chuck

    yes i am all that life has dealt me.when i look at what i have been thru,its easy to say.its when i am in the midst of troubled times as im in now and it is very hard to see where i am headed is where i need to see.now is when i need my strength not afterwards.

  • http://lifebeyondbipolar.blogspot.com Alexandria Davis

    As I read this, it is hard to grasp. My life is, well, difficult all the time. No, I have not been imprisoned, but my emotional ups and downs feel like a prison, and it is one that I will never be free from. How do you ever rely on an innate courage when you don’t even feel that you have one to begin with? This is the problem that I face.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment barb

    if i may comment on both chuck and alexandria’s comments — if you believe in Jesus, then innately you do have the courage, the strength and the faith to live through your difficult times and come out a stronger person. i, too, have had a difficult life. i may not have felt as though i had the strength to get through it, but by prayer and faith, i knew i would. you both have more strength than you think. trust Jesus. you will be fine, and He will lead you. a quote i found once stays with me all the time: “if God leads you to it, He will lead you through it.” believe.

    Therese, Nelson Mandela has become one of my most inspirational leaders. when “Invictus” came out, i bought the movie, the soundtrack and the book of his life. thank you!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tracey

    Bedridden with Lymes for several years, I kept a photo from a beautiful hike I took once (which was QUITE flattering :). It captured my spirit. I rotated it with a few other things to remind me when I started feeling like a piece of nothing. I remember that when I see the elderly now. You may see this sagged out skin and old bones, but there’s someone ALIVE in there! I hope I never forget that someone’s body is not indicative of their spirit. There is still HUGE life force in some tired old bodies!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mehujael

    Concerning where is the G-D of my Fathers in your Book In Times of Trouble, I can give You the Truth and Correct Answer but you would not like it!

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