On a recent summery afternoon, we took the kids for a stroll on Newport, R.I.’s Cliff Walk. It’s an elevated cleared path atop the cliffs that goes on for miles, flanking the gorgeous ocean. We must’ve been about a mile from shore when we spotted a large rock mass formation popping out of the otherwise calm sea. Despite the relative smoothness of the ocean’s surface up to that point, the water immediately preceding the massive rock formation dipped down, gathered in intensity, and ultimately formed a large and forceful wave that crashed over and beyond the rock. The rock formation, though a threat to the calm surface, seemed to inspire the water to summon its true power. It was in confronting the rock that the water revealed its true strength.

In watching this scene, I began wondering whether I could use this image to help me think about the obstacles in my life in a new way. If the ocean is a teacher showing that our strongest fortitude is forged in the face of barriers, how can we access our own inner power?

I started thinking about a situation I confronted this summer. In the midst of the complexity, I  gravitated towards pain and worry, and was anything but focused on my true and hidden strengths. But that moment on the walk was a clue, pointing towards nature’s balance. Revealing the truth that even though things might look rough sometimes, we, too, can use the challenge to harness our own dormant strengths.  You know, those strengths we all share, under the surface if you will, that can be culled forth by life’s challenges. To combat the undertow, it’s necessary that I remind myself again and again that the challenges can actually hone my deeper strengths. Sometimes I say to myself “ocean warrior” or “dig deep” when I’m caught in the overwhelm, little mantras to remind me of the lesson that afternoon on the cliffs.

For now, my home computer’s screen saver contains that image, so when I pass by it several times a day, I’m reminded of the power of the ocean reaching into her depth to pull out her greatest strength and grit. Even if a few times a day I can reflect on those rocks, that unwitting muse, and their message that when confronted with obstacles, we make inroads to our own hidden power, then this  path is a good one.