Awakening does not mean a change in difficulty, it means a change in how those difficulties are met.
Many of us think that if we could just understand our problems, we could “get over them” and they’d eventually fade away. We go to therapy, to silent retreats and read self-help books—all of which are incredibly useful—but our difficulties don’t go away. And our inevitable conclusion, all too often, is that we must be doing something wrong.
But maybe we aren’t doing anything wrong. Difficulties—whether painfully traumatic or annoying and trivial—are part of our daily life. There’s just no avoiding it. Awakening, as Mark Epstein writes, doesn’t mean that our difficulties disappear; rather it means that our relationship to these difficulties changes. Simply put, awakening is the act being with what IS.
One of the most important question we can ask ourselves is—what is my current reality? What am I thinking? What is my emotional state? How is my body feeling? If we can stay present even for a moment, and greet whatever arises–with openness and acceptance–we develop a very different relationship to the difficulties in our lives. We may come to experience less struggle, less anxiety, and hopefully more equanimity and peace.