Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

10 Lessons from a Decade of Challenge

Jungle - Metaphor for Lessons and ChangeThe last decade weighs in as one of the most difficult of my life.  Like being lost in a jungle after nightfall, threats seemed to lurk behind every tree.  I often wondered, “Will I ever get out alive?”

Moments of desperation, hopelessness, and despair punctuated my generally optimistic disposition.  At times, the breath of death rasped far too close, till I had to turn and look straight in its face.

Personal betrayal, loss and separation, nudged to let go of a dear career, mysterious illness, cross-country and cross-continental moves.  On a stress scale all that adds up to a very high score.  The stress then folds in on itself multiplying the angst even more.  Perhaps this is par for the course in the human realm, but it all seemed exceedingly difficult, overwhelming, and endless to me.

Yet, I endured.  I’m  stronger, more resilient, and clear as a shiny new pot.  At long last, the stars realigned in a more generous and friendly way, streaming the light of insight over all those dark years.  So I thought I would share a selection of the potent lessons learned to encourage and inspire those who may be struggling with their own specially tailored version of adversity.

1.  You can’t push the river, it flows by itself.  Life flows in cycles of activity and receptivity, outer and inner focus, times to move forward, times to hold back.  Good health is not necessarily a constant state of affairs.  You are where you are.  Wishing to be someplace else only creates frustration and discontent.  In these complex modern times, so many attempt to mold their life to be at a continual high point of happiness or success.  But unrelenting activity and resistance to the natural rhythms of life, only damages – and may even blow out – your physical, mental, and emotions systems.  Accept where you are, relax and release.  Have positive aspirations but don’t cling to them to0 tight.

2.  The core answers always lie within.  I spent countless hours and untold dollars looking for external solutions: vitamins, herbs, diets, doctors, healers, and the like.  Being a problem solver, I wanted to “fix it” and move on.  But, all these solutions just made me worse. No one can heal you if you are not open and ready and raring to go.  Unless you are prepared to explore the dark corners of your mind, change will remain an elusive commodity.  The secret is to look at where your resistance lies.  This doesn’t mean you’re at fault for being so obtuse.  The path is sometimes hidden until the right time.

3.  Anger and blame alienates and isolates.  Difficult circumstances and exasperating people would make me fume with frustration, anger, and blame.   Ironically, these perverted forms of aggression were literally eating away at my gut.  Grace allowed me to see how my projections and pugnacious demeanor were hurting primarily me.  I learned to gradually replace anger with patience, at first.  Then learned to cultivate love and compassion, taking small baby steps.

4.  Impermanence will touch you again and again.  It’s the natural course of life.  So much of my suffering came from holding on too tight.  Yet everything is dynamic, moving and shifting even as we speak.  There’s absolutely nothing to grip onto because it’s all like a dream. True freedom lies in relaxing into this groundless quality, a subtle art to master as the sands shift one moment to the next.

5.  I couldn’t care less.  At some point, you have to let go of pleasing others, follow your own voice, and shape your own identity.  People perceive you through their own colored glasses.  They will think what they think.  Be open to legitimate feedback, but don’t let yourself be pulled hither and thither by other people’s opinions, expectations and demands.  Be true to yourself and think,  “I couldn’t care less” about all the rest.

6.   Stress kills.  If it doesn’t literally kill you, it kills your joy, strength, and vitality.  Stress is one of our greatest enemies in this day and age.  I mistook it for normal life.  Till I woke up one day with a body that had fallen apart.  When you are young and vital, you will just never guess that stress is going to get you a few years down the road.  This has been one of the hardest lessons to learn of all.  Stress is not normal and I can’t do it all.  Now I focus on the priorities and let the less important slide.  I’m alert for signs of stress as soon as they arise and apply a relieving remedy.

7.  It all depends on how you perceive.  You are in charge of your mind; no one else.  You’re mind is pliable; through training you can change it around.  Positivity feels better for you and everyone else.

8.  Love is the binder, the healer, the salve.  Love will determine whether our civilization stands or falls.

9.  Humankind is in imminent danger of extinction.  This isn’t a joke.  If you could smell what I smell when you walk into a clothing store, you would be alarmed and running to ring the red bell.  It’s the cocktail of nasty chemicals freely applied to your dresses, t-shirts, and slacks by clothing factories in distant lands where labor is cheap. What can you do?  Live simply with integrity.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t succumb to anger or fear.  Honor yourself, each other, and the earth.

10.  Trust + Faith +  Surrender + Humor. What a beautiful mix!  Trust shifts will happen at the right time.  Take positive actions but don’t cling too tight.  Mindfulness and awareness is the ground of my groundlessness.  Staying in the present moment slays all unnatural fear.

Is there a lesson here that resonated for you?  What key lessons have stood out for you over the last decade?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra


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  1. Laura

    Thank you Sandra for sharing what you’ve learned in the past decade. i’ve learned all these lessons in the last year; i guess i enrolled in the “fast-track” class without knowing and it’s been an intense ride. what you’ve shared here, i believe, are THE most vital lessons of our time and i’ve been dedicated to sharing them with my friends and acquaintances. thank you again.

  2. Hi Laura,

    That’s strong medicine in one year. I think I would have been pulverized, myself! I’m happy these lessons resonate with you and your experience. I admire how you are reaching out to your friends to share and help.

  3. What a powerful post, Sandra. Your posts always resonate me and are always filled with such hope and light.

    But this time, in terms of style, you really hit it out of the ballpark here. I feel like this post is a work of a master blogger not just a great blogger. Good work, Sandra, and I feel so blessed to get the chance to read your words. This was so helpful to me and my journey. Thank you.

    • Ollin,

      I’m so touched! Your positive impressions mean so much to me. You’ve lit up my day. I’m glad you feel this post was helpful to you on your journey. Much love and blessings to you!

  4. I’ve just started to realize how debilitating stress is–and how much an integral part of my life it has been. Like you, I didn’t even realize it until it started to go away and I could discern how life felt without it. Now I actively learn ways to keep it at bay. Thanks for this helpful, honest post, Sandra.

    • Charlotte,

      This is precisely the challenge! Often, we don’t realize how debilitating stress is until it’s too later. I’m glad you are a step ahead and can be a good model for all of us! I really appreciate that you’ve shared your experience as it may alert others to the reality of stress.

  5. I believe I am starting my second decade of challenge, and it does sound as though we have been on similar journeys.
    Yes a giver all of my life
    Shadows surround me when I least expect it…
    I have to get out of my head more often
    I am loving just being at home and doing my list – but it is not making me any money
    then starts the stressing about money once again.
    so it goes, ebb and flow and ebb and flow again.
    So graciously written – always a pleasure to pause here Thank you for sharing
    I feel in good company

    • Hi Patricia,

      I hope that second decade transforms into a decade of greater ease. Change does happen, sometimes when we least expect it! Getting out of one’s head is so crucial, but more challenging in these times. Spending time in the garden works well for me in that regard. I’m so glad you connected and I am wishing you the best!

  6. Sometimes when I look at a period in my life like your last decade, I think I must be on the fast track of working through karma! All your pearls of wisdom resonated, but #2 most of all. Like you, I have looked across continents, on top of mountains, in classrooms and bookstores, everywhere outside myself to find what inside all along.

    • Hi Galen,

      It’s sometimes said that when you are a genuine spiritual practitioner you’re karma speeds up. So you sennce of this occurring may be accurate! It’s said that karma you might experience in future lifetimes, may occur now. It may be more intense but it doesn’t last as long (in terms of lifetimes!)

      It’s funny how all the looking outside seems crazy now but was so compelling for so long. I think it’s good to have a sense a humor about it all now though. It’s all part of being human and growing. I know that you have blossomed through many challenges.

  7. Sandra, thank you for sharing such insightful lessons. Boy, can I relate to them all!

    I am happy to hear that you have allowed the experience3s of the last decade to teach and mold you for the better and are at a place of rest and peacefulness.

    Do you think such a place is only possible because of working through the challenges? I mean, I know that you are at the good place you are now because of what you have learned, but are the trials and tribulations always necessary, ya think? Can you achieve peace without first going through the storm?

    Also, do you ever feel like you miss the drama and all the commotion even just the littlest bit? I know that, consciously, I do not want it and will not choose to create it in my life ever again; however, I acknowledge that there is a subconscious part of me that kinda misses it on some level.

    • Hi Debbie,

      I think we are all different so there may be some individuals who arrive with more clarity and less need to have obstacles to purify their mind. I often run into younger people these days that seem to have so much clarity! Sometimes they are called “Indigo” children. But sometimes, although they have clarity they also have challenges.

      I’ve also observed many great spiritual masters who have had significant challenges in their lives from being poisoned to having cancer. For the most part, I think we have karma to purify and for most of us it comes out in challenges in one form or the other: health, work, finances, relationships seem to be the big ones.

      I haven’t entirely gotten over the drama yet! I can still make a mountain out of a molehill and have even had very intense times in the last year. But overall, I have far more perspective and skills for working with it and not taking it all so seriously. I think our nervous system gets wired to function that way and so I would guess that there’s still some tiny part of your nervous system that may not be quite fully, fully healed. But I don’t know for sure!

      Thanks for your thoughts, Debbie! I appreciate you!

  8. Thank you for sharing these lessons. I’m sorry they came at such a high cost! I think I will bookmark these and come back to them when I’m facing adversity. I’ve come to a significant crossroads in trying to figure out what to do with my life. I hope I’ll face future challenges with as much grace and resilience as you.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I see you are at a major crossroads and my heart is with you. I know you will align with what stirs you the most though it may not be fully clear at the moment. I’ll miss you in July but am wishing you fun with biology!

      You are quite a graceful person so I can certainly see you meeting challenges with resilience!

  9. this is one of my favorite posts because the lessons here are so profound Sandra!

    I can tell you how every lesson here resonated with me – I’m almost wondering if I’ve had a past 10 challenging years because of how many lessons do:)

    The one that I can’t appreciate the most is 4. The interesting thing about impermanence is that no matter how much you know it theoretically or read about it, you don’t learn the lessons til it knocks you over:) I’m learning the lessons of impermanence as much as initially I wanted to resist it. I feel like I’ve amped the anti by now embracing impermanence and shaking my life up purposefully:) so I can embrace it more!

    I’m learning things change and nothing lasts forever (no matter how much we want it to) Thank you for sharing this wisdom. It’s a post I’ll be coming back too often as a reminder!

    • Hi Vishu,

      That was an intense 10 years wasn’t it? Maybe we have the same astrological configuration! I’m so happy you are learning to embrace impermanence. I feel like it’s a life long journey. I’m amazed by your courage to shake up you life, leave your job, and travel to distant lands. I hope you find all the happiness you deserve by embracing life as it is. And thanks for sharing your tales with us!

  10. Oh my, I can so relate to this post Sandra. I call these various crisis in our life our sacred messengers, encouraging our growth and expansion…tough as it sometimes may be.

    Just loved your take on it. Thank you.


    • Elle,

      I love the idea of “sacred messengers”! Everything depends on our perception. If we can see challenges in this way, they are already transformed to an important degree. How wise of you!

  11. Reading what you offer here has helped me be simpler so many times. I recognize your work, from the inside.

  12. Thank you, Mike. I see that as a very profound compliment. I feel a similar resonance with your writing and way of seeing.

  13. Sandra: Thanks for the lesson. I liked the all the lessons, but life is going to shake us all up at times and there is nothing we can really do about that. I believe we all just have to live and learn.
    The thing is that we have to be willing to recieve. Life is full of lessons and you were able to learn from yours. Lately, I have been more aware and actually have my eye’s open.

    Just my two cents . . .

    Best wishes,
    William Veasley

  14. Hi William,

    I agree life is all about learning lessons! Whether they help or hinder us depend upon how open and receptive we are. Thanks for highlight this way of looking at lessons.

  15. This is a beautiful post, Sandra! Thank you for sharing your life lessons. I am going through my own big life transition right now as I prepare to move across the country and start a brand new life. Honestly, every single one of your lessons apply to me in this time. I am learning to have faith, trust, and surrender, and allow things to unfold at their natural pace. I am learning to let go of what others think and my fear of rejection, and to transform pain and anger and upset into love and compassion. It is challenging no doubt! I admire your grace and resilience through the rough times. xoxo

  16. Hi Lynn,

    How exciting, Lynn! At the same time, I know your knees must be quaking at times. I’m so happy that you are working with these life lessons early in life. It’s make you such a dynamo with invaluable life wisdom. xoxo!

  17. Haha oh yes, it’s not all peaches and cream. I seem to put myself in challenging situations, knowing there’s a juicy reward at the end of the tunnel. The simple act of honest self-expression is enough to make my voice quiver and shut down. Growth in life is like a spiral – I learn some lessons, then discover there are way more lessons or way more depth to those lessons than I previously could see.

    • I think you are doing terrifically! I love the analogy of a spiral and the deepening layers of lessons to be learned. So true, I have found myself.

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