LIVE WELL: Give it up for the uncomfortable stuff in life

Published: December 10, 2013, 12:30 pm

Jennifer Mulson photographed Wednesday, August 28, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

By Jennifer Mulson jen.mulson@gazette.com -

This might sound counterintuitive, but might I suggest a few moments of thanks for the sad, hard stuff?

None of us is immune. It comes as part and parcel of the human experience.

I am well aware of the plethora of good stuff for which to be grateful, including basics such as food, clothing and shelter. And then, as we move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I am grateful for social connection in the form of friends and family. Finally, at the top, lurks self-actualization. This is defined by some as fulfilling your highest potential. I like to think of it as hard work and growth.

How do we grow? We encounter challenges, and some of it is the sticky stuff that involves heartbreak and failure.

When I’m in the thick of it, it’s hard and messy to wade through and I’m doubtful the end will come. But eventually an end does come, and I can look back and see the richness of the experience.

The icky stuff changes us. It makes us stronger, more empathic, compassionate and kind. It helps us know what to say and what not to say to people in similar situations.

I learn more from failure and heartbreak than I do from success. When I succeed at something, I think, “Wow, how lucky! Wonder how that happened? Who knows! Tra la la!” I attribute a hefty dose of magic to the positive outcome and then go on my merry way.

But when the outcome is bleak, and despair stops by in the middle of the night for a cup of tea, I stop, sit and contemplate what happened. I consider my actions, where I went off course and how to find a happier ending next time.

So this holiday season, I am grateful for all my mistakes and hard times, and how they have shaped me into who I am. And I’m also grateful for how the hard times have shaped you. Your growth is good for my growth.

We are all connected in more ways than we’ll ever realize.

Child’s pose (balasana)

When I think of gratitude, this posture pops into my mind. I like to think I’m bowing down in front of life itself and saying thank you for everything, even the muddy parts.

- Come to kneeling and sit down on your heels. Spread your knees wide, bring the tops of your feet to the mat and let your big toes touch behind you. The wider your knees are, the more accessible the pose becomes for those with tight hips.

- Lean forward so your chest and forehead relax on the mat. Reach your arms out on the mat in front of you, alongside your ears. Flip your hands so your palms face up as a gesture of receiving.

- Modify the pose and bring your arms down by your sides or goal post your arms. Perhaps place one hand on top of the other, and rest your forehead on top.

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Mulson’s column appears biweekly in Health and Wellness.