One of my favorite yoga teachers, David Magone, talks of turning obstacles into opportunities. It’s uncanny how you don’t really have to wait to get psyched to deal with something because an obstacle is a motivator in and of itself. That very roadblock will jump start change and push you into learning new skills and ways of being with yourself and in the world.
If you practice yoga, you have probably experienced numerous frustrating times while learning a new pose. Even more annoying are those experiences of approaching a tried and true pose and finding it challenging. Both are easy to view as obstacles. Yet, wouldn’t the incredible feeling of accomplishment when you do finally get it be marred if there were nothing to overcome? What adds to these kinds of experiences power is a combination of renewed knowledge, some might call it faith, in your ability to conquer ignorance and fear, with a sense of mastery and appreciation for your potential. That heady brew of thoughts, feelings, and new neural pathways in the brain prime you to be more open to life and whatever challenges present themselves in the future.
In Hinduism, Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is known as the remover of obstacles. But you don’t need to be a god, or invoke one, to practice thinking differently and turn roadblocks into pathways. (On the other hand, if you would like a little assistance, you may want to look at the mantra section and try out: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha, which specifically invokes Ganesh’s power/energy in removing obstacles. Mantras are not magic, even though they may seem a little woo-woo. They may work by auto-suggestion. Repeat a concept 108 times a day for 40 days and it is bound to influence you.)
One of the most difficult hindrances, is the challenge of accepting what seems undesirable, or even abhorrent. Ultimately, there is no trick or specific technique to transforming what is seen as horrible into a benefit; but, by choosing to think differently, in time, shift happens. Here are some tried and true affirmations that can help you re-program your brain.
Everything is happening for my highest good.
This challenge will bring me unexpected benefits.
Not only can I stand what I don’t like, I can use it to transform myself.
Everyone is my teacher.
Right this moment, I am handling things.
Gandhi was right: I can be the change I want to see.
Lest you think this is a lot of hooey, current brain research shows we can actually build new neural pathways in the brain by thinking and acting differently. The old pathways don’t disappear, they fade away, but not completely. With any new stressful situation, they reassert themselves. That’s why, even if you have been sober for twenty years, some cataclysmic life event can make you think of taking a drink. Similarly, if you have post-traumatic stress and you face a new stressor, it’s as if all the old demons have come home to roost. (Of course, you now have new reserves of strength that make choosing wisely a bit easier.)
After reading that, you might wonder, “Why bother?” The compelling reason is that you not only build emotional muscle by re-training your brain, body, and emotions, you strengthen it for any future onslaught. Not to mention the good feelings that come from self-mastery, self-determination, and self-nurturing, all of which are crucial in starting and maintaining these transformative practices.
While cognitive restructuring, a fancy name for changing your thoughts, is essential, it is also very helpful to have physical and spiritual practices to help support your journey. The physical components of good self-care are, essentially: exercise, nature, a healthy diet, some daytime rest, and enough sleep. The spiritual aspects might include: prayer, meditation, mantra work (see the chapter on Mantras), walking a labyrinth, journaling, gratitude practices, music (listening, playing, singing), nature, joining a sangha, attending religious services, volunteering,
Acceptance can be very difficult because it is all too easy to block it with internal demands. People shouldn’t act that way, life should be fair, I shouldn’t have to deal with this, I can’t stand this, The sooner you dispute some of these unhelpful, but fairly ingrained beliefs, the sooner you will enjoy the peace that comes with accepting what you don’t like, respect, or want in your life.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang