Adversity as a Friend


One of the most exciting discoveries of the last couple of turbulent years for me is that personal adversity can be highly useful and valuable if I adjust my approach to it.

At my most courageous moments I can even welcome it for the strong leverage it provides (via the courage of desperation) to engender a fierce commitment to change my habitual closing up in fear against it in self protection. Just the thought of adversity is enough.

And instead to practise relaxing completely no matter what is happening, sitting right back inside amidst it. When the fear, resistance and inner clenching up are lessened, a peaceful and still ‘me’ always seems to be there waiting, watching and experiencing it all unmoved. The us that is the ocean as well as the dramatic and temporary choppy attention grabbing waves. I can just relax instead, and be grateful for the reminder. To relax, sit back and watch the show.

This verse is from the 14th century, and maybe some terms in it will be lost in translation from the Tibetan, but the orientation of gratitude towards difficulty and adversity that it suggests is clear. Reading it gives me a renewed sense of courage, strength and determination to perceive the opportunity in what I may otherwise have spent time anticipating in fear. Perhaps that’s what Camus discovered.

“MEDITATION ON AFFLICTION

Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma
And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces!

When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma
And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows!

Through harm caused by spirits we discover Dharma
And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons!

Through people’s hate we discover Dharma
And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us!

Through cruel adversity, we discover Dharma
And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity!

Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma
And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on!

We dedicate our merit to you all

~ Longchenpa (1308-1364)

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