Things have been getting intense. We have concerns about our children, our elderly parents, our country. It’s natural to want to push back against the problems, lead with disbelief and anger, or try to avoid the issues altogether. When I think about it, I’m brought back to my 5-year old self, watching Dad excavate our backyard to create a well. Stubborn large rocks and tree roots often blocked his path, initially getting under his skin. But, a true warrior, it was the largest boulders that transformed his angst into a calmer determination. In fact, the biggest boulders seemed to become steppingstones for him to explore his own inner well of purpose and even-keel resolve.
We all confront the barriers in our lives—and we can choose to see them as stumbling blocks and therefore despair, or see them as steppingstones, and get even determined than before. Like a personal trainer hired to increase physical strength, the boulders in our lives can be a spiritual trainer—here to help us hone and chisel our spiritual and emotional fitness.
When the blocks appear, instead of “oh crap, I can’t believe this happened,” I wonder what it would be like if we acknowledged that we don’t like the situation, but then asked ourselves, “How can we use this barrier to get stronger? Can we use it as a stepping stone to something greater than initially envisioned?” Just like at the gym, our spiritual selves are best developed during the heavy-lifting phases.
Some spiritual trainers will help you get clearer about what matters most to you. For instance, fighting against discrimination and insisting on dignity for everyone may be an American value you hold dear. By bumping into a roadblock on that path, you get in touch with how much that means to you– and getting clearer on what matters is a good thing. It inspires grounded knowledge, and from there focused action can be undertaken with integrity and principle.
A talented spiritual trainer may even compassionately show us the way our fears invite our mind to run wild. Understanding the disruptive power of fear is useful because this is not the first, nor will it be the last time fear will arise. If the anxious mind-chatter has you on the ropes, use it as a signal to pause and draw your attention to that space within you that embodies something eternal, warm, loving. From that connection, you are positioned to cultivate the most valuable mindfulness of all— a mindfulness that you can call upon not just when things are relatively calm, but when things are insanely nuts.
A spiritual trainer worth her salt will also help you identify blind spots in your faith. The one I’ve been struggling with lately is—How much do I trust that Something Bigger and More Powerful Than Any Human is guiding and protecting us? I’ve found myself sleeping with one eye open lately. Recent events have showed me where my faith is more fragile than I realized. It’s also shown me where I’ve taken things in the past for granted, and reminded me of how grateful I am every single day.
Dig deep and embrace the boulders. We have more personal grit and determination that we might’ve given ourselves credit for. And we will emerge from our time with the spiritual trainer with more courage, more focus, more gratitude and more grounding.