How to overcome adversity?

How to overcome adversity?

It is true that in life challenges and adversity are a certainty, but do they have to overwhelm and overpower us? Some respond to adversity incredibly well, dealing with them skillfully, optimistically, enthusiastically and appropriately. Whilst others often feel disheartened, perhaps defeated, disempowered – with feelings of “why me?”, as though life holds a personal grudge against them.

Life does not discriminate when it comes to giving adversity; it does so very generously in fact. To subscribe to the idea that life has a personal vendetta against “me” is an ill-informed one – it is a self-absorbed and solipsistic view to hold, believing that everything should be the way “I” wish for it to be, at all times. Not only is it not helpful, but also it is explicitly untrue.

It is more useful to cultivate and embrace the notion that life is a curriculum, carefully tailored for each one individually to grow into their true self. Life provides us with a series of teachings, curated lessons that steadily reveal aspects of our true nature, and at the same time layers of fallacies that we carry. It shows us what we are and what we are not, if we care to listen, if we care to observe. Though the teaching is one (guiding and directing us to our true essence), lessons are different for each one, as each one carries different habits, beliefs, preconceptions and so on.

When these lessons appear in our life, we should rejoice – for it is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the nature of life and the nature of self. It is an opportunity to advance spiritually. There is the beautiful story of Kunti in the Mahabharata that depicts this point quite well. At the end of the war when Krishna is granting favours and fulfilling wishes, Kunti asks for some kind of adversity to remain with her at all times. Surprised, Krishna asks why she would like adversity – to which she responds for it is in adversity that You are nearest to me and I am closest to You. William Wordsworth echoes this sentiment in his statement “wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop than when we soar.” These lessons come to us so we can cultivate wisdom, and it is through that wisdom that we can then begin to fly.

There are many methods that we can utilise to deal with adversity, and I will share one. First and foremost it is important that we accept the nature of the situation, as it is. Complete acceptance – not wishing that things were different, not comparing or contrasting our life to that of others, accepting that like all form based things this too is fleeting – and that this too shall pass. Surrender the mental struggle, and simply accept. This acceptance aptly prepares us for dealing with any situation.

Secondly, we need to detach ourselves from the situation. Take a step back, view the situation objectively. It is useful not to view the situation from a personal centre, a centre that identifies with the situation, a centre whose identity is based on or defined by the situation. Withdraw any mental or emotional attachment. It can be useful to view yourself as a character in a play that is facing this adversity, how would you write this character’s script for them to successfully overcome the adversity with the simplest of ease? Perhaps visualise someone who you consider wise, how would they deal with the situation? All of this helps.

Thirdly, face it. Facing the situation minimises the perceived magnitude of the adversity. When avoided, when ignored, it grows in size. From a neutral perspective the adversity is often times manageable and easily solvable. An adversity only appears big in a very specific, isolated and personally defined way – it is only big in a certain context. A context that we have attributed and attached many emotional and mental associations to – without these self-attributed personal associations and connotations the situation drastically shrinks in size. Thus, when we face an adversity those associations naturally dissolve and diminish. We move from an imagined adversity to the reality of it, as it is. Which is far less daunting, as the self-created image of the adversity is always far worse than the actual nature of the situation itself.

Lastly, act. Be among the doers. Act on your wisdom. This leads to more wisdom, as you now have the experience of the wisdom in action.

And sometimes, a problem shared is a problem halved. If at that moment in time, the adversity feels overbearing, reach out and speak to someone you trust. Open up completely, allow yourself to be transparent and vulnerable. There is great strength in such openness. This can also be done through writing, through self-talk, and through meditation and communication with a higher power. But know that help is always there, help always has its hand open and extended out to you – make sure you have yours extended too.

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