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The Buddha told us that all suffering is created from three things:

• Greed – longing, desire, wanting
• Hatred – no love, no compassion, no forgiveness
• Delusion – seeing things as we wish them to be or not as they really are.

When our lives feel difficult, this is a useful list to examine and use to excavate how we are creating our own suffering. Writer and Buddhist Jack Kornfield tells us that “The ordinary man chooses to look at the results; the wise man chooses to look at the cause” … because it is actually ourselves who create our own suffering.

Problems and challenges are inevitable – they are inbuilt into every life, even when we manifest our deepest desires, encoded into that manifestation will be both positives and negatives. We cannot get away from challenges because we are here to transform and become greater than who we were when we first arrived here, and we can only do this by being challenged. Plato said that “only the dead have known the end of war”. While that is a rather depressing statement, it is the truth at this point in time in our history.

So whether we like it or not, we will continue to be handed challenges. While some problems we create ourselves (karma), others seem random and totally unfair. And at the human level they are, because they haven’t been consciously created. They were created at the soul level for our own enlightenment, like a series of tests.
Here are five steps to take if you are experiencing a challenge.

1. Practise acceptance – the greatest block to overcoming challenges is resistance. When we react to a problem with “Why me?”, “This is so unfair!”, “Just when it was all coming together …” we are failing to accept the problem. We waste a lot of energy feeling victimised, and we cannot change what we don’t accept.

2. Realise it was created by your soul for your growth – yes, it’s true. YOU created it so that you can become more! For example, if you are experiencing relationship problems, you are being challenged to grow your understanding of love either for yourself or another; if you are going through financial hardship, your lesson is to open up to your creative powers; if you are swamped by problems, your soul has put you on a fast-track to learn to trust and surrender.

3. Open yourself up to the spiritual big picture – our ego mind has a very narrow way of looking at things. It cannot see the spiritual big picture. It judges everything as good/bad, right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable. And yet, have you ever had a “bad thing” happen that turned out, in the long run, to be a “good thing”?
4. Ask yourself this important question – “I’m not sure why or how I created this, but I am willing to take responsibility for it. There is something from this experience that I am meant to be learning and growing from”.

5. Meditate and ask for guidance – call upon the Angels, God or The Universe (in accordance with your beliefs) and ask for insights and guidance. Hand the problem over and say “I am open to signs and guidance”. Then stay aware and trust that you will be shown what you need to know.

Everything in your life is a mirror, reflecting back to you a belief that exists within you. If you believe you’re not good enough, you will attract people and situations that reflect this back to you. If you struggle to make ends meet, you have a belief that there is not enough. If you attract difficult people into your life, you have some past trauma you need to resolve.

By going within when we are experiencing a problem, we are going to the Source. This is a powerful place from where we can get a change of perspective and answers. Sometimes we “fix” a problem on a more superficial level, but if we do not learn the lesson from the problem, it will be presented to us over and over again until we do. Once we do learn the lesson, however, that particular challenge will not be presented to us again because we have transcended the pattern within us that created it.

The more we embrace our challenges and learn from them, the easier the challenges get. Like ploughing a field, first the big boulders must be removed, then the stones, then the pebbles. The big boulders are our core wounds – the very painful wounds that recreate painful challenges until they are healed, the stones are problems that don’t feel as “charged” and the pebbles are the smaller challenges that beset us from time to time. So if you can, embrace your challenges because the more you do, the easier it gets.