When Life Gets Hard – Five Practices To Consider

Blog article written and contributed by Dr. Brandon Nappi

1. Ask frequently: What do I really need right now?
2. Set boundaries by saying yes and no with radical honesty.
3. Care for yourself often by doing things that bring delight.
4. Instead of complaining about people, make requests of people.
5. Get support by asking for help when you need it.

As we prepare to enter the third year of the pandemic, we might be feeling a kind of exhaustion that transcends bodily fatigue; for many of us it’s an exhaustion of the spirit and an erosion of resilience. Yet, such a decline is not inevitable.

Through practice we can develop protective skills that nourish our wellbeing and keep our spirits buoyant.

In fact, the biggest risk is that we would emerge from the pandemic unchanged. While there is a natural temptation to claw back to the lives we once lived, we have been presented with a powerful opportunity to grower wiser and live more intentional lives.

Try integrating these 5 practices in your life at any moment, not just the challenging ones.

Life gets hard sometimes, right? Why do we think it shouldn’t be this way? We suffer more to the degree that we resist the way things are. Our Buddhist friends teach about this with the metaphor of the two arrows. The first arrow is the unavoidable pain of life—a stubbed toe, a pandemic canceling anticipated plans, a colleague says something hurtful, or we need to say goodbye to a beloved person, pet, thing, or experience. To live on the planet is to know some amount of pain and discomfort. Pain is the first unavoidable arrow.

While the first arrow is unavoidable, the second arrow is one we choose to shoot.

The second arrow represents how we choose to respond to the first arrow. The second arrow can sound like: “This shouldn’t be happening, I’m a bad person, why me?” It can look like denial, blaming, shaming, disassociation, excessive complaining, overworking, suppressing your needs, self-isolating, unhealthy habits, or lashing out at others.

Mindfulness is the courageous willingness to meet the present moment.

It can help us in moments when pain and discomfort of any kind arrives. Mindfulness reveals to us that there is always a choice about how we want to respond to the moment. We have the capacity to choose how we will respond to challenge. With some mindfulness practice, we can learn to meet the first arrow without shooting the second. We can learn new ways of responding skillfully and gracefully so that our pain doesn’t multiply because of our unskillful response. So, when life gets hard, try these 5 simple practices to cultivate resilience and compassion for these challenging moments.

Want to learn about how mindfulness can transform your life? You can learn more from Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, Connecticut, a community devoted to mindfulness practice and compassionate action.

Dr. Brandon Nappi, Founder and Executive Director at Copper Beech Institute, is a meditation teacher and speaker who passionately believes in the capacity of the human spirit to awaken. With over twenty years of study and practice in Zen and mindfulness, Brandon is a lecturer at Yale Divinity School.