What do you do when, not only are the plants you planted in your garden not growing, but the weeds are growing fast and furious instead? What about those times when not only do you have to work for what you want, but it seems like life is throwing one obstacle after another in your path?

Some people deal with more obstacles and limitations in their lives than others. The amount of obstacles and limitations in one’s life does not necessarily correspond to happiness. We become happy not by having fewer obstacles, but by our attitude towards them. If we never had obstacles in our lives, chances are good that very little growth would happen at all. However, there are many people who have tons of obstacles and still grow very little. So how can we take the obstacles in our lives and use them as a springboard for growth rather than allowing them to weigh us down?

In order to use our obstacles for growth, we must shift our perspective about the obstacles. We do this by first stepping back, and viewing the obstacles from a neutral place rather than a place of drama. This space around the obstacle allows us to see it in perspective. To see that we are separate from our limitations and that they do not define us. Then we can begin looking for the other good in our lives. We notice that although there are many large weeds in our garden, there are also some flowers. Then we begin to notice the beauty in the weeds themselves.

It is much easier to see the benefits that obstacles in our past have given us. It is much more difficult to see the beauty and the gifts in our current obstacles. However, the practice of opening to the good in what we perceive as obstacles in one of the most powerful tools available for melting the obstacles away. When we let go of resentment towards our limitations, we make space for gratitude. This gratitude is fertile ground for our obstacles to inspire growth and positive transformation.

In our lives there are many choices. In yoga, we try to make the choices that are shri or life-enhancing. The choice to use obstacles as a springboard for growth rather than as an excuse to be miserable is one of those choices. Be sure to remind me of that next time I complain…

Try this meditation to dissolve obstacles:
Sit comfortably on a chair or on the ground. It is helpful to have a wall or chair back to support your spine as being uncomfortable doesn’t actually assist your meditation at all. You may also lay on your back, perhaps with a bolster under your spine or under your knees.

Begin by choosing a perceived obstacle or limitation in your life to focus on. It can be something you have been struggling with for a while, or something that is current to the moment. As you think of this obstacle in your life, notice what feelings and thoughts come up around it without judging. Take a few deep slow breaths and allow yourself to feel these feelings without trying to change or judge them.

Now, take a step back from this situation in your mind. Try to view it from a distance, as an observer rather than a participant. Notice that you are separate from this situation, notice that it does not define who you are. Anytime that you feel yourself getting emotionally involved, take a breath and imagine yourself stepping farther away from the situation, removing yourself for the time being. Allow the feelings of resentment, want, deprivation, betrayal, etc to fall away.

When you are able to feel neutral towards the situation and observe it with interest rather than resentment, open yourself up to the idea of gratitude for the situation. If the moment you do that, the negative emotions rush back in, go back to the previous step and try again. At first you may be able to feel only the faintest twinge of gratitude. As you practice, you may be able to feel it more and more strongly. If you are having a hard time connecting to the feeling of gratitude, you may repeat silently to yourself something like “thank you [god, universe, higher power, whatever] for [insert situation]. Thank you for this challenge. Thank you for this opportunity to grow.”

Continue with this practice of gratitude as long as you want to or have time for. You can do this every day or even several times a day during challenging times. When you are practicing frequently, you will be able to go through all these steps almost instantly anywhere anytime. Leave a comment and let me know what your experience is with this meditation.