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GREAT LIFE REVERSES CAN REVEAL GOD'S GRACE AND SHOW WHAT WE MOST NEED, WHAT WE CHERISH, GREATLY VALUE, AND OUR HIDDEN STRENGTHS

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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HOW CAN WE USE OUR SORROW, PAIN OR GREAT LIFE REVERSES TO INVOKE GOD'S GRACE THAT IS HIDDEN BEHIND IT: To be human is to experience pain, betrayal, disappointment, and various kinds of suffering. We may ask, "Why me?" To which I would reply, "Why not you?" We all have our litany lists of wrongs done to us or to those we love. What do we do with this list?

One natural tendency is that we would rather avoid pain than to experience happiness, so in the face of pain, violence, or loss, we tend to either repress it or be angry or resentful about it. I have experienced both of these reactions to life situations. Unfortunately, such reactions are only helpful in the short term, but do little to help us grow as a person, and self-improvement, and ultimately spiritual awakening are, to me, the purpose of life. Otherwise, we have a pointless dog eat dog world, with death being the end of everything.

Could there be some benefit, even great benefit in these experiences? Some will be angry just at my asking this question, and yet, if we don't ask it, we can remain ever in reaction to the past, and keep playing it out in relationship to others.

We also find that even what everyone else thinks is good fortune or an ideal situation can be interpreted by the person in the middle of it as a terrible or awful experience. So while we have all heard this before, the simple yet powerful truth is that our attitude is really what gives meaning to the events of our lives or a statement we hear. This means that we can change our feelings about an experience by changing the meaning we give it, or by using it as a way to improve our lives.
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Even more deeply than this is that whatever has occurred in our life is actually a gift to be unpacked, and is meant for our highest good--but, and it can be a big but--we have to believe this, and look for the good which is often hidden in our pain. As I have often shared, we tend to find what we are looking for. Again, our attitude colors our vision and becomes a lens by which we see, or really evaluate what we see. Whether something is good or bad is really a value judgement based on our attitude.

Think about some great calamity or difficulty in your life, and if you haven't already done so, ask yourself with faith, "What was or is the benefit in this,--or--what COULD be the benefit? Stay with that until you find the benefit or benefits. Honestly, we really can change our lens and the meaning we give to life events. This simple attitude is life affirming and life changing, and more than anything else can bring you peace and happiness, and what to speak of having a spiritual practice where you cultivate a relationship with that beneficent force that wants the best for you, and is only a prayer or mantra away. When we bring the light of God into our lives that brings our life meaning and purpose.

To my best ability this is how I live, though I can tell you, it took many years to come to this point in my life. If I stumble in the mud of pity or complaining, I remember this fact and my history applying it. This is one perspective that I most frequently share.
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OUR LOSES, REVERSES, AND PAIN, CAN REVEAL WHAT WE MOST NEED, WHAT WE CHERISH, WHAT WE VALUE THE MOST, AND OUR HIDDEN STRENGTHS: Much of our attempts at being happy is trying to avoid the negative and to seek comfort or facilities to make our life easier. We do more to avoid potential pain than we do to seek pleasure, and yet, without experiencing what we don’t want to, or feeling emotional or physical pain, we often don’t grow as a person or have much depth of character. These situations are opportunities for personal and spiritual growth in disguise as difficulties or even catastrophes. They challenge us to become more.

Great people are great because they have gone through trials, tribulations, life tests, intense challenges, or persons who hurt or hindered them without becoming broken or permanently damaged. Instead great persons have used difficulties or calamities as stepping stones to make helpful contributions to the world. They teach us what is possible. We celebrate anyone who overcomes tremendous odds to obtain success, and yet the greater message is that we too must rise above difficulties and our lower nature.
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Think of the challenges of Shrila Prabhupada in trying to come to America, or his first year on the Lower East Side of NYC. We celebrate his overcoming what appeared to be impediments. If he had just easily flown by plane to the US and easily set up ISKCON, his success wouldn’t have been as glorious. Who would have heard of Prahlad Maharaja, without the intrigues of his father? Where would Jesus be without the betrayal of Judas, or not giving in to the temptations of the devil? To rise above mediocrity or in just existing, we require to successfully deal with our personal challenges.

I have recently written that I don’t recommend we pray for difficulties or problems since they will come anyway of their own accord. At the same time our life would be flat and lifeless without them. In a sense, our response to our personal challenges determines our character and who we really are as a person. Thus, I recommend that we pray to have the strengthen, faith, and positive character traits necessary to deal with our life reverses; that we become personally enriched and rise to the occasion by discovering our greater strength by connecting to our soul and God. Thus we’ll gain new courage and power to deal with any situation. Many of us came to spiritual life as a result of intense suffering and disillusion with the material world. Without such suffering we would have had no necessity to search out beyond the conventional materialistic offerings of the world.
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Appreciation is at the root of our spiritual journey. Often it takes the loss of something we take for granted, some means of support, facility, or person in our lives, to teach us what we really need and value. The loss of a loved one can teach us to the importance of regularly expressing our love and appreciation for them. A life threatening illness can teach us the value of each moment and in realizing what we most need to do and learn in life. Suffering from a lack of meaning and spirituality can lead us on the search for God.

My guru, Shrila Prabhupada, taught that spiritual, or Krishna, consciousness, among many things, means to become conscious, or we could say, showing up to life as fully as possible. You might take some time to write out how your personal difficulties, loses, or life reverses, have helped you be a better person, or how they could if you thought about them beyond appearances. As I often share, whatever happens to us has many purposes, the most important of which is to facilitate our highest good or potential and to help us find our spiritual shelter beyond the ephemeral world.
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