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The Obstacle is the Path
There is an ancient Zen Buddhist saying, “The obstacle is the path.” Wouldn’t be wonderful if we didn’t have any problems? Maybe yes but also no. How will we learn and grow if we don’t face some obstacles? Even crops and flowers have to push their way through the earth to feel the sunlight. Do you get depressed or want to give up what you are trying to do because it all feels too hard?
Part of how we feel is because we have an expectation that our journey and path in life should be smooth with perhaps only small bumps in the road. Most of us hope that anyway. We can also be unaware of the huge privilege of that preconception given that at the majority of human beings have a much tougher life than some of us. Even if we know that though, it doesn’t really help us because everything is relative to our own situation.
‘Obstacles do not block the path. They create the path.’
We also forget when we are going through a difficult time that ‘this too will pass.’ Everything changes and that includes the good and bad times. As I write this, there are storms and torrential rain and flooding up and down the East coast of Australia and flooding across Europe. Many of us are having a cosy weekend indoors but let’s also spare a thought for our wonderful emergency workers helping people out there. Nature is unpredictable and dangerous at times when it is extreme. Yet we don’t expect this weather to go on forever. The sun will come out again.
“What stands in the way becomes the way.” M. Aurelius.
When Nature is in balance, rain and sun allow trees, plants and vegetables to grow. When there is excessive rain it washes everything away and destruction ensues. Nature has many lessons to teach us.
The experience of working our way through adversity is not only seen as important on a spiritual path but also on a psychological path. It is a way of transforming ourselves in unexpected ways. If we allow our thoughts and emotions to ‘take us over’ we get flooded and feel distressed and out of control. In relationships we can become really angry and say hurtful things we don’t really mean or we suffer from panic attacks or obsessional thinking. Some of us deal with distress by turning to alcohol and drugs to escape.
“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. F. Clarke
In Process Oriented Psychology we believe in the path of following not only our known process but also our unknown process. In this way we are guided by our conscious and unconscious mind and include all of who we are, not who we think we SHOULD be. Sometimes we face external obstructions but they may also be internal. What one person finds extremely challenging and arduous, someone else may not have an issue with.
Sometimes we get stronger by dealing with strong challenges, but we also need to know before we have had ‘too much’ and find a way to really take care of ourselves. Things do ‘go wrong’ but it is how we react that determines how our life progresses and whether we sink or manage to swim to safety.
‘There may be many obstacles in your path. Don’t let yourself become one of them. If you do, know how to process why and learn to find the way through your habitual patterns of thinking and actions to create a new path for yourself.’