Friday, May 30, 2008

Adversity Knocks

So after my pity-party the other day, I took some time to do necessary reading - not the schoolwork reading that is required for my classes, but some spiritual reading. I got out Everday Spiritual Practice, which I have yet to make everyday reading, and the next chapter that I was up to was entitled Adversity, by Barbara Merritt.

I honestly laughed out loud when I opened the book up. It was like one of those exercises where you randomly open the bible and put your finger down to find the verse that answers the question of life that is currently perplexing you. Yes, adversity is what I'm struggling with.

I go through these phases where I get really tired of adversity. I mean, really, haven't I had enough adversity in my life? Mentally ill, abusive parent; divorce; poverty; physically ill parent, etc. etc. etc.? When does it end? When do I get my trophy? Apparently...never. Which I know, but sometimes I take smooth sailing for granted and forget that there are new challenges ahead, and they are not meant to torture me. Rather the universe is giving me yet another opportunity to grow.

As Merritt says, "most of us seek [a spiritual practice] that will sooth, comfort, relax, and nourish us." Of course that makes sense. But even meditation, which I consider grounding and peaceful, has its moments, days, weeks of adversity. It can be a hard practice. Challenging. Nearly impossible.

And the best question she asks is "What relationship will we have to adversity?" That kicked my butt right out of pity party and into the active thinking and action itself that I'm known for. I'm a head-on kind of gal, but my spiritual practice is often to sit back and reflect. I need to spend time reflecting and coming up with methods for spiritual growth, and then testing them. (aka, the learning cycle in spiritual action!)

"Our will is not in charge, our desires are not running the world, our preferences are not preeminent."

"Adversity can be one of the great teachers of the soul."

I guess I have a lot of learning to do. Sometimes I think I must have been really, really stupid in a past life.

As Merritt says, a lot of spiritual discipline requires intentionality. Adversity comes right to our front door with no effort on our part at all. And it's how we use it that counts.

The other reading I did was from UU World, which showed up in my mailbox at a convenient time. There is a piece in this issue by esteemed minister and writer Forrest Church, who is dying of cancer.

He also addressed adversity. "Adversity doesn't always bring out the best in people. But the reason it so often does is because adversity forces us to work within tightly drawn limits. Everything within those limits is heightened. We receive as gifts things we tend to take for granted."

Merritt quotes Rumi's take on adversity: "It scatters the yellow leaves from the bough of the heart, in order incessant green leaves may grow. It uproots the old joy, in order that new delight may march in from the beyond."

When I most need to learn, the universe teaches. I just need to open my eyes.

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