What would it be like if you could stay open during the challenging times? What would it be like to know that your challenges are here, not because you screwed up or it is karmic retribution, but because they are here to grow you. There is a wonderful story by Rachel Naomi Redman, author of the popular book Kitchen Table Wisdom:
“As a physician, I had a man come into my practice with bone cancer. His leg was removed at the hip to save his life. He was 24 years old when I started working with him and he was a very angry man with a lot of bitterness. He felt a deep sense of injustice and a very deep hatred for all well people because it seems so unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in his life.
“I worked with this man through his grief and rage and pain using painting, imagery and deep psychotherapy. After working with him for more than two years there became a profound shift. He began coming out of himself. Later he started to visit other people who had suffered severe physical losses and he would tell me the most wonderful stories about these visits.
“Once he visited a young woman who was almost his own age. It was a hot day in Palo Alto and he was in running shorts so his artificial leg showed when he came into her hospital room. The woman was so depressed about the loss of both of her breasts that she wouldn’t even look at him, wouldn’t pay attention to him. The nurses had left her radio playing, probably in order to cheer her up. So, desperate to get her attention, he unstrapped his leg and began dancing around the room on one leg, snapping his finger to the music. She looked at him in amazement, and then burst out laughing and said, “Man, if you can dance, I can sing”.
“It was a year following this that we set down to review our work together. He talked about what was significant to him and then I shared what was significant in our process. As we were reviewing our two years of work together, I opened his file and there discovered several drawings he had made early on. I handed them to him. He looked at them and said, “Oh look at this.” He showed me one of his earliest drawings. I had suggested to him that he draw a picture of his body. He had drawn a picture of a vase, and running through the vase was a deep black crack. This was the image of his body and he had taken a black crayon and had drawn the crack over and over again. He was grinding his teeth with rage at the time. It was very, very painful because it seemed to him that this vase would never function again as a vase. It could never hold water.
“Now, several years later, he came to this picture and looked at it and said, “Oh this one isn’t finished.” And I said, extending the box of crayons, “Why don’t you finish it?” He picked up a yellow crayon and putting his finger on the crack he said, “You see here – where it is broken – this is where the light comes through” And with the yellow crayon he drew light streaming through the crack in his body. We can grow strong at the broken places.
One of the most powerful things you can remember when Life is challenging you, is that this challenge is for you. Your challenges can open you just like the shell around the seed is cracked open in order for it to grow. The other thing that helps immensely in keeping your heart open in the difficult places is to know that you are not alone. Whatever challenge you are meeting, there are hundreds of thousands of people right now that are also experiencing the same challenge, the same emotions, the same cracking open of their hearts. Let this truth open your heart. Let this truth allow the light to stream through the crack in your challenges.