Everything's A Test

Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.
— Epictetus
Image source: Pexels

Image source: Pexels

There's a way I want to be in the world, the ideal version of myself that I aspire to embody at all times, regardless of what's going on in the world around me both near (across the room, for example) and far (pick your global humanitarian or natural crisis).

This ideal version of myself greets every challenge as a learning opportunity, a chance to grow in unexpected ways.

This ideal version of myself wakes every morning full of hope for a world better than the day before.

This ideal version of myself looks for the good in everyone, and treats every encounter as a chance to connect, to help or just to patiently bear witness to someone else's experience.

This ideal version of myself humbly accepts that the ratio of what he knows (or thinks he knows) to what he doesn't know (or doesn't even know he doesn't know) is about 1:1 gazillion.

This ideal version of myself is a perpetual work-in-progress, a machine whose fuel is whatever conflict or chaos or static or dysfunction happens to be served up by the universe.

This ideal version of myself has finally learned, after years of pointless struggle, how to stay on top of the wave and avoid wiping out and breaking my neck.

This ideal version of myself is honed by the Mountain Practice.

The Mountain Practice helps me endure challenges calmly, with equanimity and grace.

The Mountain Practice helps me resist the urge to retreat into cynicism when the world around me fails to fulfill my fondest hopes.

The Mountain Practice helps me forgive people their faults.

The Mountain Practice helps me to remember that everything I need to know is within reach if I only stop to look, and listen.

The Mountain Practice makes it possible for me to be grateful for everything that will happen in my life by reminding me that everything that has already happened to me has only made me stronger, more resilient, more adaptable.

In the Mountain Practice everything is a test.

How will you respond when someone says or does something mean or selfish or thoughtless?

How will you behave when you need to get somewhere, fast, but the roads are clogged with traffic?

How will you respond to cold and rainy when you were hoping for warm and sunny?

And those are just the mundane, everyday things.

What if someone you love gets sick? Or dies?

What if you get sick?

What if you lose your job?

What if you have your heart broken?

What if your car gets stolen or your house burns down?

The world is a precarious place. All of these things are possible, some are inevitable. None of them are within your control.

What's within your control?

How you respond to them. Whether you react mindlessly or with equanimity. How you let them effect your emotional weather.

The ideal version of myself, my Mountain Self, has its spot. It's at this spot that I endeavor to stay rooted to the earth below me, where I attempt to persevere through all of the trials and tribulations -- the endless series of tests -- that come my way. The wind will howl and the earth will shake, but through it all I am determined to hold fast to my spot.

Staying rooted to this spot, to the ideal version of myself, is the goal of my Mountain Practice.

How To Develop a Mountain Practice

  1. Start a gratitude journal to remind yourself of the good things in your life. Every morning, write down three things you're grateful for. Practice seeing the glass half-full instead of half-empty.

  2. Learn to reframe your "hardships," turning them from things that have happened to you into things that have happened for you. This is your journey; the obstacle is the way.

  3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. When you stop thinking of yourself as a victim you'll have to take responsibility for your thoughts and deeds. This can be terrifying and exhilarating. Embrace the uncertainty and remember: discomfort isn't terminal.

  4. Be relentlessly optimistic. Stay radically open to change. Embrace change as the pathway to learning.

  5. Endure. By endurance we conquer. Fortitudine vincimus.