If you’ve ever read my book, “Love is the River: Learning to Live in the Flow of Divine Grace,” you’ve heard one of my favorite stories about life trying to get my attention. (It’s a good book by the way! I still re-read it to remind myself to practice what I preach.) Back to the story, I was exhausted. Friends started telling me to rest. Angels told me to rest. I knew I needed more rest… and crash, boom, bang, I had an accident that grounded me for five months! I even had a choice up to the last minute to avoid it but my, “I can do it all” nature at the time steered me right down the proverbial, primrose path! While there’s nothing wrong with believing in our own abilities, I had been pushing myself without mercy.

While grounded, I listened to the angels. I sat in silence much of the time. Although I had a broken foot and ripped tendon I took very few pain medications and instead embraced the pain. I dove into it. I found out what it was telling me. I canceled my social life and for the very first time as an adult, put my own needs first. It was about time. My soul had been crying for it for years.

There were other times when challenges arose after I’d had plenty of more subtle advance notice. I spent much of my thirties in relationships I didn’t belong in, simply because I was needy for love and willing to get in relationships with people who had potential – even if they weren’t living it. Needless to say I learned the hard way. My heart told me to cut it out. My mind talked me into trying to even harder. It is no wonder I was dumped repeatedly!

After wailing my “victimized” heart out, I realized I kept getting into relationships that really didn’t really resonate with me or what I wanted, and the funny part is, I knew it each time and did it anyway. Needless to say those challenges became great opportunities to learn to love the true Self within and to have compassion for others who were simply doing their best too. I could have had a lot less “challenge” had I listened to my heart along the way, but I the “challenges” became my “opportunity” to learn that lesson.

The more you embrace this concept, the more the challenges –  great and small – get easier to deal with. A few weeks ago I kept waking up to pools of water on my kitchen counter. I had no clue where they were coming from so I focused on what it would feel like to have clarity and suddenly the insight struck that the cartridge filter in the faucet needed replacing. I went under the sink to turn the water off but when the handles were stubborn I had the very, very strong feeling not to force them. I listened and called a plumber.

I intended a perfectly healthy, happy, competent plumber who could get it fixed in one visit. When the company I always use couldn’t get me in quickly, I knew the universe was working on my behalf. Sure enough a very happy, healthy plumber arrived, and although he told me they would have to come back because they didn’t have the part in stock, I was so focused on the outcome working out, that the idea to go to Home Depot and get the part myself popped into my head! I ordered online, asked the plumber if he was alright if I ran off to Home Depot and backto pick it up, while he fixed the stops under the sink. He felt trustworthy and I was in a high enough vibe to trust me! At the store, the very wonderful customer service man I’d talked to made sure I didn’t have to wait the usual two hours for pickup. Instead I waited two minutes. Sink fixed in one visit. No broken handles. No flood. A happy, healthy plumber, and a happy me.

I realize this is a simple example and absolutely nothing like the challenge of losing a job or a relationship or a life. Nonetheless, the same principles and concepts apply. They’ve worked in my life consistently and will work in your life too.

Here are a few pointers to help you embrace challenge as opportunity

1. Avoid the blame game and focus forward

It is all too human to beat yourself or others up when a challenge arises – to shame and blame self or others – and yet it’s totally disempowering. You’re here and now. What do you want next?

In most challenges, we and others totally cooperated to get to this point. Yes cooperated. I really had a fit when the angels first pointed that one out years ago! “Me? Cooperate with creating this?” “Yes,” they replied, “exactly!”

In time I came to understand. When others beat me up in the past, I had unwittingly cooperated by having an energy that let it in. I either feared them or cared about what they thought of me. Human? Yes? An opportunity to grow? Yes, definitely. The opinions of haters no longer bother me. They have a right to think what they do. I’m content to know I’m in integrity with myself and God.

Likewise, when financial challenges came along in the past, I looked back and realized I was either feeling a little lack or not embracing the energy of abundance strongly enough to create what I wanted. When people in my life left me, I realized we weren’t resonating anyway and it was time to part ways.

It is empowering and enlightening to stop the blame game, take responsibility for our cooperation in the challenges, and empower ourselves with the ability to create better.

2. Don’t stay stuck in the energy of the challenge

There’s another human tendency to mentally and emotionally spiral around in a challenge until it is solved, meanwhile ignoring all the good in all the other areas of our lives. When you think of it, that doesn’t make sense. When you have a challenge, do what you know to do, focus on how it would feel to have the problem solved, then go about enjoying your life until you get inspiration to take action.

For example, I read a website report for my site recently that said I have a 60% bounce rate. That means 60% of the people who come to the site leave because it loads too slowly on their devices. At first that was hard to hear since I worked so hard on it. Reality is, I need to shift that. I didn’t immediately know how. Within less than a day multiple solutions were presented to me and I’m excited about rebuilding the entire site to make it much more user friendly. Challenge – opportunity – solution. It can happen that quickly. It may take months to actually implement the solution in 3D but that doesn’t bother me. The energy was quickly shifted. Now I’m super-excited to get creative again and learn something new.

3. Think of life as a game you’re trying to master

Sometimes challenges seem like a personal affront! Sometimes you feel like, “What the…?” “Where did that come from?” “Why me?” etc…

However if we reached a challenge while playing a video game, we’d never have those thoughts! We’d get excited and work to master it.

I once had a friend who wanted to design a video game. We consulted with a video game psychologist. That is a real profession. He told us that in order for a video game to succeed, users had to be excited by the challenges, and feel good whether or not they mastered them, even if they simply tried. You had to “glorify the attempts” not just “the wins.” Seriously! We can apply that to life. Congratulate yourself for meeting the challenges of life and being excited about the outcome. Congratulate yourself for the attempts to convert them into opportunities. Try, try again until you master your mind and succeed.

Like all of us, my human ego would much rather have a challenge-free life! However I’ve surrendered to the fact that the soul is here to embrace the opportunities to expand and grow. I can either embrace them willingly – by doing things I want to do when I want to do them, by believing in my dreams, and by living in the most loving, heart-centered way I can – or I can ignore my heart and life will give me challenges that motivate me!

So when you can, listen to your heart and act when inspired to do so. When the challenges come, realize they’re not out to get you, but rather a self-created way that we bring the need to grow and expand to our own attention.

The rocks along the canyon walls guide the water on the path of least resistance. The challenges in our life guide us back to the path of least resistance to love’s eternal flow.

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