Sunday, December 15, 2013

3 Easy Steps to Magically Turn Struggle Into Joy

"What happens in our life is either a lesson or a blessing."

A shift in perception can change our feelings of being in a struggle to being blessed with something wonderful. As women, we put our attention on everything but ourselves-our work, our children, our husband or partner.  Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom calls it our "egg wisdom." It is our biological makeup, as Northrup explains, to make everything around us better. We "egg on" our men, our children, our co-workers. At some point we burn out feeling stripped and stressed, and as a result struggle. 

First Step Toward Joy - Understanding Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” We are intimately involved when our learning is tethered to struggle. It is important to understand that our struggles are lessons and bring us to a beautiful place of knowledge if we are open to learning. The story of the butterfly and the cocoon, attributed to Henry Miller, is the tale that helps me to understand the importance of struggle in my life:

 A boy is given a cocoon and brings it inside his home for safe keeping. When he sees the butterfly trying to emerge from the cocoon, at first he is thrilled. It is not long before his excitement turns to concern when the butterfly does not emerge after days of trying. The boy, in an act of compassion, clips the cocoon with a pair of scissors to set the butterfly free. What he finds is a butterfly that is deformed with swollen wings. The boy's act of compassion was to the detriment of the butterfly. It never soared. It could never be set free. Instead the butterfly suffered a grounded life with swollen wings that could never fully develop.  

Second Step - Redefine Struggle - I think of this story when I am in a difficult situation. I can shift that feeling of struggle to a feeling of joy, yes, joy with this simple question: What am I learning during this time? How will this situation help me to soar even higher in my life? I am actually giddy with the knowledge that I am being stretched and evolving, and it absolutely feels magical. It is the struggle to get out of the cocoon that gives the butterfly's wings enough blood to fully develop. We need our struggles to develop our wings.

Third Step - Practice Self-Care

In addition to understanding and shifting our thoughts by reminding ourselves that our wings are just getting stronger during a time of trial, we can "egg" ourselves on by practicing self-care. We can forgive ourselves when we make a mistake, and we can treat ourselves to simple pleasures like a ten dollar bouquet of flowers or scented salt bath. When we are struggling to feel good, that is the most important time to put ourselves on the largest rung of our inner-life tree.