We live in a society where people often pretend things are fine when they aren’t. There are doubtless many reasons for this, some of them economic (you have to earn a living, and most jobs require a modicum of good cheer), some cultural (we’re all so busybusybusy, we don’t have time to stop and reflect; also, if you do have spare time, you’re expected to watch the latest TV series or movies, or go shopping), and some educational (for better or worse—often worse—we learn how to deal with emotions from our parents, who learned from their parents, and so on). One consequence of pretending (AKA living in denial) is that when we resist change and growth our lives stagnate and we become numb.
But you can only kick the can down the road for so long. Sooner or later, something happens that you cannot ignore.
In this book, subtitled How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, Elizabeth Lesser, who co-founded the Omega Institute (“the world’s largest center for spiritual retreat and personal growth”), explains not only how but also why we must seize these crises as opportunities for growth. The epigraph, a quote from Anais Nin, captures this idea succinctly: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Lesser’s story of how she first encountered this quote, like many other moments in this book, is quite poignant.
This book reminds me of another good one, THE ART OF RESILIENCE by Carol Orsborn, which exhorts readers to “think of yourself as experientially gifted.” Both writers suggest that when we find ourselves most challenged, we should look for ways to appreciate the situation—not deny the pain, but figure out what it is trying to teach us. Then go from there, and live more fully.