the presence of challenge

The belief taught in the Lotus Sutra provides no easy answers, no escape route from the difficulties of human life. In fact, it rejects such easy answers; instead it implores us to take up the two tools for exploring life, belief and understanding, and use them to continually challenge and work to perfect ourselves. And it also provides us the energy to do just that. -Daisaku Ikeda (sharingbuddhism.com)

Life has its easy moments . . . remembering that “easy” is a relative term. What I sweep through like a breeze might be a hardship for others. The idea that life itself is easy appears true for only a few individuals. Even then, what we see is the appearance that life is easy. We don’t see the struggle and work behind the scenes. Many people I know who seem to have the easy life worked very hard to get there.

Life is not always hard, but life is always work. In a recent post, my friend, Ben, wrote “the challenges in the world today . . . are forcing us to seek something new in ourselves and only in this moment. That is all we have.”

He is right – we only have this moment to meet the challenges of our lives. Because life is not static, each moment brings a new challenge. Even if those challenges appear to be the same old challenges, they are not. We are unwinding and unfolding along with that challenge in each moment. More of our selves are exposed and available. Thus our abilities, our perspectives, our understanding are changed and there is more of who we truly are to bring to that challenge.

I have a few friends who have physical handicaps. One of them has multiple sclerosis and has had it for 40 years. He copes by reinventing how he meets that challenge each day, in each moment. When one technique stops working, he finds something new in himself to meet that challenge. He gets creative and is willing to do the work required to deal with the new challenges life brings him.

Ben goes on to write that the moments of our lives are “the alpha and the omega.” Each moment is its own beginning and its own end. Once we get inside that knowledge, we realize this moment is the eternal present and this is the only chance we have to find that something new in ourselves to meet our challenges.

Find something new in you today, tonight, tomorrow, and all the moments you encounter. Be that new creation, that new thought, that new action. There is a reason why we set all of this in motion and leave it in motion. None of it was designed to become cold and still . . . and that includes you.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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21 Responses to “the presence of challenge”

  1. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Cold and still? No – would rather be warm and inviting…..I sound like I am Hot Choccolate!!

  2. Gil Says:

    Thank you for this brilliant post! This in particular rings so true to me “Life is not always hard, but life is always work.” I have found than when the work is meaningful to me, it is very easy…
    much love
    Gil

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Gil – meaningful work is key to our satisfaction and happiness; and each of us gets to determine what is meaningful for ourselves. I know you have a packed schedule and are an extremely busy person with school, and I also know that you enjoy it immensely.

  3. Gil Says:

    🙂

  4. sandiwhite Says:

    Barbara, this is such a good moment for me to be reading this, at what could be a very static period in my life, not going out to work, house-bound due to snow and ice, I have pinched myself more than a few times to get busy and do something. My Self would whine, ” But why? I don’t need to do anything.” Oh, for Heaven’s sake! That’s when I could give Self a good, round cosh on the nog for taking the easy way. Oh, I love the Easy Way as opposed to the challenges that demand I DO SOMETHING. What you brought home to me and shook in my face is that I am living in my Eternal present – right now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but this day is a day in Eternity. It won’t be remembered by anyone but me, and it has been a forgettable day by all standards. I did make a very nice custard though and got my truck out of the snow. Both of those are as big a challenge as I could deal with today without my head catching on fire. Great post, thanks for reminding me that this IS the life, now, not later.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Sandi — you are about as busy a person as I have ever met and my experience with you is that you don’t back down from a challenge. Congratulations on getting your truck out of the snow, by the way. I would love a nice custard right now but will be satisfied with popsicles (no sugar). You are circumstantially static right now, but in your case that is fine. It will keep you alive longer. No one should be outside anywhere in Atlanta right now except those people who know how to put the city back together.

      The thaw will come. And when it does, you will take up your paints and pencils and create something fantastic. And after that, you will sit down to write about scary okra!

  5. holessence Says:

    Barbara – Breathless I arrive mimicking The Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland: “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”

    I apologize for my tardiness, but I’m here now.

    I love what you said, “Life is not always hard, but life is always work.” Amen, siSTAR! And I really enjoyed reading what you shared about your friend with MS.

    It’s always a delight to read Ben’s words as well.

    Now that I’ve got a wonderful plate full of FOOD FOR THOUGHT, I’ll sit still and ponder awhile.

    As always, thank you.

  6. Barbara Kass Says:

    Hi, Laurie — you are never REALLY late . . . just arriving in your own good time 🙂 I know you’ve been out there working your life!

  7. passionatepresence Says:

    Hi Barbara!

    Beautiful Post! Before you wrote this blog you mentioned that you thought challenges were the way we transform possibly on a Global scale.

    The same thought occurred to me. Without some kind of challenge, obstacle, or resonance I never saw (in the past) the reason for change or I just didn’t know I really wanted it, so life handed it to me through the circumstances in my life. That was hard to admit for years. I wanted life to be easy, simple, and free.

    Actually, it is, but when I resist what calls me to change that is when it gets difficult. Not following my heart or what it is that reaches for me is painful these days. I almost always have advanced notice or a subtle unformed sense of something coming. It is best met and followed even if my survival sense wants to back up from it.

    I pay closer attention to it these days. I open to it sometimes readily sometime reluctantly even though it resonates. I have stopped judging what calls me as silly or worry near as much if someone else will approve although those thoughts do appear. They can tug at some idea of who I have thought myself to be. So, in another sense, the resistance and suffering bring awareness to what hides. I guess we can’t lose if we will answer what calls us no matter how it comes in. I feel we are very much supported, and my past seeing too narrow to get that.

    I like resonance the best though. I notice as I move towards the thing that really calls me I run smack dab into my beliefs, boundaries, and comfort zones. That is why I really don’t believe in beliefs and yet I see I have them some deeply hidden away. Those beliefs are the boundary I self imposed that I am not getting beyond or is creating the suffering and discomfort. I am holding onto some idea, belief, or concept about how my life is supposed to look.

    I really don’t exist though except as an idea in my head. I am the timeless open space of presence appearing in human form. I can validate that there is timeless space in this moment, and much appears and passes in that space. So that feels really big, but is it true?

    And this where it comes down to each challenge met seems to call forth others. The really big ones met seem to ante the stakes for the next one.

    I begin an online retreat on Monday. To participate I have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. Here are the 3 questions the retreat leader lays out before the retreat begins for us to contemplate.

    1. What would you like to get out of this retreat?

    2. Do you feel that you are searching? If so, what are you searching for?

    3. Are you willing to lose everything to find what you are searching for? Are you willing to die for it?

    I want the clearest most direct experience of the truth of this life, this palpable presence I sense I am. I searched for years, when I finally threw down the gauntlet willing to give up everything for it and suffer dearly if necessary. That is when I was taken and shown for a month (April, 2008) something beyond what I ever imagined. Parts of it scared the daylights out of me, and I stepped back into my comfort zone albeit better informed.

    However I don’t want to be informed. I want to be the living expression of it. I am willing to lose everything most especially the ideas of who I think and believe myself to be. I am willing to die for this. It is the most important thing in the world to me, and it asks in return for my life.

    Seems I keep getting the opportunity to face this again. This time with help. I am grateful for that so much.

    Love,
    Ben

  8. Barbara Kass Says:

    Wow, Ben. Your posts are blogs in themselves! Do you have a place you blog regularly? There are so many things in this one post that grab my attention and take me down thought paths I had not considered before.

    For instance “Not following my heart or what it is that reaches for me is painful these days.” I wonder how many people are aware that this could be causing them pain. We think it is whatever is right in front of us is the problem and we try to fix that so we will feel good. We don’t realize it is our hearts calling us to a different path. (Again, I will nab this little nugget and write about it more here.)

    A second stand-out: “I notice as I move towards the thing that really calls me I run smack dab into my beliefs, boundaries, and comfort zones. That is why I really don’t believe in beliefs and yet I see I have them some deeply hidden away. Those beliefs are the boundary I self imposed that I am not getting beyond or is creating the suffering and discomfort. I am holding onto some idea, belief, or concept about how my life is supposed to look.”
    Beliefs ARE self-imposed boundaries and someone created them — we absorbed them from the adults in our lives when we were very young and created them from our experiences. We can’t even say things like “I don’t believe in killing” because that implies there is a belief in killing. Not believing your beliefs has two facets: the first is some people don’t believe they have beliefs (they are delusional) and the second is as you say not “believing in beliefs” because they are just those thoughts/ideas we create to make a boundary for ourselves.

    Your retreat is intriguing as was whatever experience you had in April, 2008. It does not surprise me that you are willing to die to become who you truly are. Much of the person who I used to believe myself to be has died over the years as I allowed myself to open and embrace the being I came here to be. I know I have to discover the essence of that presence.

    I did an interview with Soren Sorenson (The Center for a Better World) the other day and he said something simple that we have heard in many different ways but for some reason, this really resonated with me. He said “we are the universe expressing itself though these physical bodies.” I am some small but obviously required and integral presence of all that is. I really enjoy that belief. 🙂

  9. passionatepresence Says:

    Hi Barbara,

    No I do not have a blog. I have been encouraged to have one in the past. I am over booked you could say with projects (at work), and personally with this retreat, taking french lessons, and a couple of other commitments certainly in the 1st 3 months.

    Also, I am a sloooooowww writer when I am creating. I do better on my own when I have a lot of spaciousness which isn’t present right now. So, if I do not have the spaciousness to write, and I love to write and create, then it helps to write in response to, with, or along with someone.
    That has been here (mostly) and very good. I appreciate your patience and acceptance with my replies. If a blog moves me, then I reply with that movement. Otherwise, I just read. You write about the things that interest me most in life. I have even had a couple of poems pop out recently. That’s a good sign that I am feeling engaged, connected, and creative.

    Yes, so the question I came away from in my retreat today and it may apply here? Who is watching the beliefs or anything for that matter and is saying it should or shouldn’t be that way? What is that?

    Deep Bow!
    Ben

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Ben — you are always welcome to write here :-). I understand the need for spaciousness to write. I assign writing to myself to make me create the space I know I need and tend to work on one project over a period of a few days — some pieces require more time for digestion than others. Now, I have to go write about the presence of beliefs . . .

  10. ntexas99 Says:

    Hi Barbara … I’ll keep this short, and simple. I have allowed myself to hover indefinitely in a place that is cold and static, and am not, as Ben put it, presently “feeling engaged, connected, and creative”. I saw your name pop up on FB the other day, and it reminded me of a time when life was a bit more interesting, and required that I acknowledge my presence in the world. Right now, I’m hiding from myself. But I see you. And I still like what I see. I’m just having a hard time opening my eyes. Please be patient with me. Hugs … Nancy

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — you are always welcome here no matter how long (or how short!) you have been away. I finally joined facebook because I am taking an online course on shamanism and it was required. I am glad it prompted you to come out of hiding long enough to say “hi.” I see you, too, more than you know, and my thoughts are with you even when I don’t see you.

      • ntexas99 Says:

        I do miss our conversations, but recognize that I’m the one that is in static mode right now. But you’d be surprised how often I think of you, or remember some piece of a conversation, or wonder how you are progressing in your journey.

        Thanks, (as always), for being understanding about my need to withdraw for a bit. I’m consciously aware of where I am, and am simply gauging what works best in the overall vision for where I want to be. Writing is something I need to avoid right now, and I can’t seem to conduct a conversation without writing entering into the picture. Thanks for understanding. Always wishing you the best, and interested in where you’re headed …

  11. the presence of beliefs « Eternal Presence Says:

    […] Eternal Presence Bringing true presence to life « the presence of challenge […]

  12. jeffstroud Says:

    Barbara,

    I was already to write when I got to Ben’s response, began reading and said ‘self this is a whole other discussion expanded and you don’t have time in this moment to go there.”
    I wanted to respond because your blogs always resonate with me, or parts of who I am and who I am seeking to be. Meeting the challenges of everyday, the same challenges we may fall over over and over again, yet at some point move out of in the spiral journey to experiences moments of, what seems like the “easy way”! Only to realized that we have tapped into our Being, our spirit and allowed it to Be present, we are lead by the heart!.

    Thank you for reminding me while I am stuck in my own challenge of being who I am. I came here from todays blog so I may get to that too. As well as get back to Ben’s response.

    I am Love, Jeff

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff! Nice to see you . . . as always. You and I tend to write about the universal condition, so we recognize ourselves in each other’s writing (I am missing your morning pages by the way!). In your post, what particularly caught my attention and is settling in for a chat is the thought “the same challenges we may fall over over and over again.” In my mind, I see the universe tapping me on the shoulder trying to get my attention. You would think that doing the same thing over and over with undesireable results would cause me to do something different, but NOOOOOOO. I just think I have not done it quite right yet at the right time with the right star alignment or some other nonsense. Once we get out of our own way, then I think we can find the “easy way” you mention . . . and find ourselves right there.

  13. sore knee joints Says:

    That is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
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