“ Where you stumble, there your treasure is….The world is a match for us and we are a match for the world. And where it seems most challenging lies the greatest invitation to find deeper and greater powers in ourselves”

Joseph Campbell

When life gets difficult and pushes us all over the place – especially in the darker recesses where we can get lost, fearful of finding our way back – we may very well tremble. We may very well reel back in horror from the thought of impending crisis looming on our horizon threatening to take our life away into darkness and doom. Yet this may be the very spot of transformation where the tide turns, where the darkness starts to slowly give way to the light. Our problems in life are never permanent, never fixed in their scope and intensity. They are constantly emerging, shifting and dying in a complex dynamic that we overlay with subjective meaning and interpretation. All spiritual traditions, despite their widely different theological underpinnings, attempt to recognize problems in terms of opportunities presented to us as a challenge which will assist us with further personal growth and expansion. In my own tradition of Buddhism much is made of the alchemist art of turning misfortune into adventure that will take us off to higher states of existence. The saying: “ The usefulness of difficulties “ expresses this succinctly. Difficulties sweep into our lives for many different reasons but there is really only one response and that is to work with them efficiently and effectively as we can. Difficulties are seen as our spiritual masters here to sharpen our practices, to make us grow as full, human beings. And the greater the difficulty, the greater is the potential to grow from it – to scale new personal heights. Nothing is, in reality, problem free everything comes with inbuilt contradictions / dilemmas that we all have to confront. That’s the complexity of the world we live in but the obligation always remains the same – to match the difficulty with even stronger resolve to overcome it.

You must have belief in yourself. You must have the necessary desire to work hard in order to be able to reach out for success. You must seek out inspiration and motivation from those who can guide and support you, especial in moments of flagging self doubt. You must endeavour always to give of your very best, in each and every waking moment, so that achievement becomes just a formality. A new level of personal best is always on the cards if you work stridently and diligently. But if you pull back, withdraw, close down on life’s challenges and all the riches that they can offer then you will be reduced, made less than what you could be. We all have hidden potential, rich reserves to draw on if only we can cultivate the faith of trust and self belief. But no one else can do this work for us, it is our vocation, our mission in life so the sooner we start activating this potential the better.


The real journey in life is not geographical, not even external but internal – the journey within ourselves. It’s a journey where there is much to understand and learn, for it is here that we can find out who we really are and what we should be doing with our lives. In this gift of existence that we have been given there lies an obligation to serve it well, to live it fully, truthfully and attentively for others and ourselves. But too often we can fall asleep and allow opportunities and openings to past us by unnoticed. Paying attention, watching, listening, waiting for the right moment to unfold, so that we can make of it the best, is an imperative that we must never shy away from.
Deep within are the answers we need to seek out for a richer, better life and yet so often we refuse to engage with this wealth. So often we detach ourselves from what is so vital and meaningful for our existence. So often we deny our true destiny and allow ourselves to be smaller than we could be.

“ If you do not get it from yourself where else will you get it? “

Master Dogen

We never really know what we are made of until we are tested in the fierce fire of life’s difficulties. All our theories and speculations, opinions and projections on what we will do may account for very little in the final analysis. Grounded preparation and experience may help, they could very well be our saviours, but until the moment comes and we feel the full force of the storm we will never know. The very uniqueness of life means that the difficulties we face are themselves unique therefore no planned, scripted guarantees can be given for eventual success. We are in the moment and providing we give of our very best then that is all we can really do.
On one level there is no such thing as ‘ success ‘ or ‘ failure ‘ for they are just arbitrary labels, value judgements that may change over time. Perhaps it’s better to think in terms of ‘ lessons ‘ and ‘ teachings ‘ that life distributes to us. Certainly without life’s challenges there would be very little in the way of growth for us. We would just remain in our comfort zone, restricted and half asleep unable and unwilling to venture into new territory.
Challenges can, and do, hone our spiritual practice, they provide us with a template against which we can measure our commitment to life. They help us explore our inner depths that often remain untapped, hidden from view but nevertheless still real and just waiting for us to recognize their force. Heroic deeds, in all their wonderfully rich and creative energy, tap into this inner source. They could be considered its fullest expression, for they risk so much in order to give fully, generously and unselfishly.

We mustn’t really refuse the gift that is continuously being offered to us – a fullness of being. We must never refuse the gift of being our true selves by trying to be somebody else. But so often we put on the mask of another, trying to be anyone but ourselves in the vain hope that we can escape to something better but in reality there is no ‘ better ‘ only different and we should celebrate this by being who WE really are. If we keep on insisting to be other people we may never discover our real worth. When we project onto the world an image of another, an impostor, people often sense this and perhaps being too polite in saying anything, they implicitly allow us to continue with the masquerade. But we must never allow this to happen – we must never abandon our true nature so that we may become strangers to ourselves and others. Remaining steadfast and confident within our own sense of being we can start to open up to the inner resources that we have been blessed with, the inner riches that lie awaiting. And who knows what we can realize when we tap into this vast potential…..

We don’t always achieve what we set out to do in life; often we are brought up short to confront our mistakes and shortcomings. But this is all part of being in the human realm. Sometimes we go too far, act unskilfully and this can be labelled ‘ sin.‘ Unfortunately this term has been over laden with negative, religious connotations. Originally it was an archery term used by the Romans which meant ‘ Just wide of the target ’ and this is interesting because it implies two points for consideration. Firstly, that we have at least been trying and secondly, that we could do better next time. Our shots at life may not have always been successful, they may have missed the target, but there is always scope for improvement, an open invitation to try again. We can’t always get life perfectly correct all the time, we are only human, but providing we give life our very best then no one can criticize us, least of all ourselves.

“ Half the spiritual life consists of remembering what
we are up against and where we are going.”

Ayya Khema