Helen Keller: “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”
It gives me pause to read these words from a woman who was profoundly deaf and blind from the age of two. If anyone could be said to have struggled with hardship, Helen Keller would be one of the tops. And yet, she was known for her unflagging optimism and tireless activism for racial and sexual equality at a time when such ideas were scorned and ridiculed. Where does such courage come from?
We all endure pain and hardship, some more than others. This is an unfortunate fact of life that nobody can change. What we CAN change, however, is the stories we tell ourselves. Too often, we prolong our pain by wishing for a future that cannot be, or by looking back nostalgically at a past we’ve lost. Or we get angry or depressed about a situation that’s gone beyond our control. The alternative path is to take steps toward changing our lives by seeing clearly what is here and now.
Meditation is a powerful tool that enables us to see ourselves and our world as they truly are. When we let go of our self-defeating “stories” and see things in their naked truth, we begin to see possibilities for changing our lives and moving forward again. We then have a choice: to move forward toward greater happiness, or to stay where we are in our pain.
We can all take a lesson from Helen Keller’s example. She faced seemingly insurmountable odds and yet continued to put one foot in front of the other, every day. And look where it took her. We, too, can change our lives for the better. Whether we take up that challenge is up to us.
Sunada teaches the online meditation courses at Wildmind, and also runs her own business, Mindful Purpose Life Coaching, that helps people navigate the choppy waters of their own spiritual journeys.