Is Your Life A Constant Test, A Struggle?

"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity." - Carl Jung

Have you ever felt like life is testing you? What if it was? What if every moment you are either being tested or celebrating? What if instead of looking at these tests as a bad thing, we embrace them?

With a change of mindset, these things called challenges can easily be made into opportunities. When something does not go your way, it is a chance to practice mindfulness and non-attachment. After all, why are you upset when something “doesn’t go your way”?

You have a viewpoint in your mind of how things should go, of how future events should turn out. This view of reality is a misguided perspective. We have been taught that we should expect things to go a certain way and when they do not, we become disappointed. If we take a step back and think about this for a second, who are you to say how things “should” go?

There are an innumerable amount of variables that go into any decision or situation. Humans are under the false assumption that when we make a choice or see how things might be going that we have taken in enough data to be informed. Human psychology is based on assumptions. We have to assume, otherwise we would be paralyzed with information.

Take a simple, everyday example. Have you ever gone to the store looking for one or two things and come out with none? When you were looking for that one thing, you had a hundred different varieties that you could have bought. The color, lighting and amount of possibilities can be so intense that your senses become overwhelmed. I like to call this analysis paralysis. When we take in too much information in a given period, we cannot come to a final decision. If you are like me, you will walk out of the store with nothing.

Life is a complex web of interactions. That is how we have gotten to this moment in time. Therefore, we are having the exact experience that we need to have. This is the experience that we need to have because it is the only one that we can have. Because we have gone through the process called life, it has led us to this point; there is no other place that we can be, nothing else that we can do.

"Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward." - Henry Ford

At this point, there are two things that you can do. You can suffer and resist the present moment. Or, you can surrender and realize that this is all that there is. You can take a step back and separate from the mind chatter and find the silver lining at this moment. If nothing else, take it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and realize how quickly the mind shifts. One second you are okay, content, etc. the next second you are borderline going to strangle someone.

Take a second and ask why? Why are you so upset? You will see that you have a construct, a model in your mind around how the world should be working. This model tells you that if I do this, then that will happen. What this model fails to take into account is that your effort is only one variable. Every single situation that we encounter has hundreds, if not thousands of variables, many of which we are entirely unaware of. How might this be you ask?

Let’s take a brief look at what perception is. This thing known as perception is made up of our senses. That is the portion of us that takes in the external world. These are our data intake devices. We take in the information and then make decisions, or form our model of the world. Perception and the resulting mental model helps us to interact and understand the world. The senses are limited and can only take in as much as they can, and the rest is missed. Think of it as a pipe. The pipe can just carry so much water, whatever water that it cannot take gets lost. 

The brain does an interesting thing when we miss specific data. It will actively fill in for this missing information. This mental processing tells us that our limited view of reality isn’t authentic. We are missing data, inputs, variables, information, or whatever it is that you would like to call it. Then based on that partial information we receive, we form our model of the world. This model becomes the base from which we think things “should go.” If things do not go according to these plans, it is effortless for us to get upset, frustrated, or hopeless.

When we let go and realize that we are mostly powerless aside from a direct sphere of influence, then we can relax. We can live a life of ease. Stress melts away because all of that scurrying to meet a deadline can be undertaken with the mindset that we will do what we can do, nothing more and nothing less. We cannot think of things beyond our control as we do not influence those factors. That is the basis of anxiety.

People become anxious when they try to control things that they can have no control over, or think about making a decision and wondering if they have taken in enough information to make the best choice. You can never take in enough information. There will always be more. Decisions arise spontaneously. They are based on the things we think that we know which are based on limited input from senses that often miss things.

When we get anxious or frustrated from a life test, this bleeds through our actions and attitudes. Others can pick up on this, and they also become frustrated and anxious. A centered and grounded person becomes a root for tough times. The world needs more people who fully accept the present and crazy situation that we call life.

Knowing about our limited perspective should give us great comfort as everyone is in this same predicament. We can only do as much as we can and are limited by what we can collect and think about. No more and no less. So when life gives us a test, we can think with ease.

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."- Lao Tzu

We can rest assured that each perceived test, is in fact, a great opportunity. A chance to practice presence, patience, and awareness. It is also an opportunity to celebrate and to find the lesson. Every moment of every day holds the potential to be filled with experience. It is your job to perceive it as such. The only thing that we as humans genuinely have control over is our interpretation of a situation. We can lead a life of great joy and excitement when we learn to celebrate every new moment with the great ease that is generated by accepting all things the way they are.