Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When life gives you lemons...

Keep calm. They're just lemons. Do you have any idea how many delicious things you can make out of lemons? Lemon bars. Lemon curd. Meatless lemon "chicken." Lemon cream pie. Lemon vinaigrette. Not to mention, lemonade. You can add lemon zest to all kinds of things to give them a little kick, like oatmeal cranberry cookies or marinara sauce. You can grind the used lemon up in your garbage disposal for a fresh smell. I know how awful it can feel to receive lemons, but try to see past your initial frustration/anger/sadness and consider what they can become. Everything is a gift and an opportunity, even lemons...especially lemons!

Yesterday morning I awoke in cry-for-your-mama pain. It was early and the clinic hadn't opened yet for me to make an appointment, so I got to lay awake for a while lamenting the incredibly challenging nature of the last week. Lamenting. Crying. Exhausted. Then I feel asleep again long enough to be in less pain, and I woke up and carried on; ran an important errand, taught a kickin' yoga class to a room full of beautiful souls and took my body to the doctor.

There is a time for lamentation and self-pity, for sniffling and whining. Shortly thereafter, the time arrives to take a big ol' breath and get on with it, already. How long are you going to let darkness and heaviness get in the way of what you love? This past week, I took about an hour- an hour to glumly eat leftover stir fry while taking care of some uncomfortable, albeit important, adult business. At the end of the hour, I didn't really feel better, but I'm unwilling to wait for things to be perfect to live my life. There is good work to be done that cannot wait and we are the ones who have to do it.

It's taken years to learn how to let my experience wash over me without nearly drowning in it. Yoga and meditation have made me buoyant enough to stay afloat while also enabling me to dive deep into the heart of the matter and reap valuable learning. Experience can be a harsh teacher, but I've found that the most demanding, sometimes painful moments present the biggest opportunities for growth. Fears, avoidances and known limits are the edges to work in order to expand your capabilities and master yourself. This mastery is possible if you limit wallowing, take responsibility where appropriate, learn the lessons and keep moving.

Don't be fooled by the deceptive constancy of seemingly stable things like mountains; rain, wind and snow are constantly reforming their shapes in small, incremental ways until one day they look drastically different than they did before. We are sculpted by the events of our lives in just such a way and when times are tough, we can look to mountains for reassurance that everything is always changing. Sour lemons can become sweet gifts if we're willing to wade through the initial discomfort, trusting that they too will change.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this for some is that you have to allow transformation to occur in yourself, the people around you and your circumstances. People stay in terrible situations all the time for the sake of comforting familiarity. Happiness is so foreign that it's scary. The lemons remain sour because to sweeten them is to move into unknown territory.

It's a lemon's tartness that makes it such a great addition to dishes, though. If you add too much sugar, you lose the lemon flavor. Such is our authentic experience of reality. We can't pretend that the hard times were not hard. Of course they were! We have the scars to prove it! The question is, can we allow something to be hard and valuable? Can we say, "Wow, that was a really trying time for me! I learned a lot that I am grateful for," and move forward? Time is usually the great healer that allows us to find the value in pain, but I'd encourage you to begin to take note of what you are being taught when you're in the thick of difficulty. Notice all the ways in which are you are being triggered and challenged- those are the areas that are being worked and need it.

All the while, keep living your life and doing what you love to the best of your ability. Lemons are nothing more than invitations to grow in ways in which you haven't been grown yet. Everything is changing all the time, including you. Might as well let go and consciously accept the invitation to be grown. It is a great gift to become who we already are and it is life's lemons that push us to this becoming. Breathe deep. Keep calm and carry on. When you come out the other side you'll be different, you'll be more yourself than ever before, and that is great.

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