Living with these concepts begins to have another, more subtle transformative effect: you begin to embrace doing things now for the benefits you’ll reap later, like an expert chess player who thinks 5 moves in advance. Lifting weights once doesn’t guarantee an Olympian’s physique, nor does one meditation session result in total liberation of the mind. But small daily challenges and rational, calculated risks, repeated over a long enough span of time, help cultivate patience and an unshakable trust in yourself that helps you stay focused on your larger goals…
Anyone who’s heavily tattooed, such as myself, already has tremendous experience with this concept. We all know that getting tattooed can be painful, yet that doesn’t stop us from diving in, again and again, in order to get entire arms, legs, bodies covered…and then re-covered! The vast majority of us don’t do it because we enjoy physical pain or discomfort, but rather, because our sights are set on the lasting image we’ll be left with at the end. With trust in our own judgment, we’re willing to take a gamble and learn just how much we can endure.
Managing the Breakdowns
The effect of all this dedication and exertion in your life, ironically enough, is often an energizing sense of accomplishment rather than a draining sense of exhaustion. Especially when you’re exerting yourself in pursuits that you genuinely value, where you enjoy the process regardless of the end result. But like all aspects of life, energy levels and mental fortitude can ebb and flow, which leads to some inevitable low points. These lulls in the growth process require an appropriate strategy: one promoting rest, groundedness, and balance. For incredibly driven or focused people, this downtime can indeed be quite a challenge—it can take members of that personality type to a different part of their edge. But as the perfect circle example illustrates, this perhaps less familiar part of the self needs exploring and expanding just like all the others. Luckily for these people, periods of healing, relaxation, and recalibration can be worked into the system and viewed as yet another challenge. Thus, with the right approach, benefits can still be gained from aspects of living or self-exploration that might have initially seemed unproductive or less valuable.
Thomas S. Cowan, MD sums up this concept with the following explanation. He beautifully re-interprets the negative cultural view of illness into something positive, invoking ideas of personal growth and challenge:
“The word ‘health’ comes from the word ‘whole.’ In this holistic view, we can experience illness as an opportunity to generate spaces for transformation, create supportive rhythms and move towards balance. Symptoms of illness, then, are not enemies but friendly movements that guide us again towards wholeness. Healing involves re-balancing that which takes place in the spaces between formation and annihilation.”
“Illness should not be viewed as a curse, but as a challenge to the human spirit, a stepping stone in the process of soul evolution, a crack in the door that, when opened, reveals inspiring vistas of the mysterious workings of the universe. The doctor can give potions and guidance, but each patient must make his or her own pilgrimage.” (The Fourfold Path to Healing, New Trends Publishing, 2004.)
(Nick can be found here: www.nickbaxter.com)