The Most Difficult Thing in your Life, is your Greatest Teacher

The most difficult or aggravating thing or person in your life is also your best teacher. 

For through dealing with this difficulty, you learn and grow the most.


This teaching can be found throughout many spiritual traditions, ancient and modern.   I remember reading this from the work of Pema Chodron many years ago.   And just last night I was watching an NVC video with Marshall Rosenberg where he shared the same sentiment.


I felt so much relief and good feeling on being reminded of this.  As I had been feeling a lot of anger and frustration around my work (I am a teacher at an academy in Korea) recently….   And it suddenly struck me that I could look at this difficulty from a different perspective:

What a Gift.  What a gift it is to have a tough time here and now.


For in going through this difficulty I become stronger.  I also learn about things that I don’t like (through which contrast I can better appreciate what I do like!)    And also, to think of the relief, on getting through this work.   Think of how good it will feel, in future, looking back on this and saying,  “So many things I learned from these experiences….”


My Intention to Bring Non-Violent Communication (NVC) into the Classroom

Day 1:

I currently work as an English language school teacher at an academy in South Korea.  My students are a range of ages from Elementary grade 1 all the way up to High school.

I was inspired this weekend, watching the fascinating and heart-stirring videos (I highly recommend you check them out if you can) again of Marshall Rosenberg, doing workshops of Non-violent communication, which videos I had not watched in quite some time.


It reminded me of the stunning beauty and possible efficacy of this process. And it occurred to me that I could learn from this, and try to apply a new way of dealing with my students, in an Non-violent communicative-inspired style.

It is very late here and I do not have time to go into details at the moment.  But I will say that I already noticed powerful results, from the very first class when I decided to try to take on a more NVC approach.


I was already feeling a bit tired as had not had a great sleep the night before.  And it was a noisy gaggle of 2nd and 3rd grade students mostly in my class.

But I decided to approach this in the way of being sensitive to, of feeling, the NEEDS in this situation.  My own NEEDS — which were to have a relative level of peace in the classroom;  and also I put out feelers for the NEEDS of the young humans around me.

I refused to see them as difficult — or worse, adversaries — and tried to feel what NEEDS (if any), might exist behind their noise.


It is hard to describe in words, but frankly what seemed the most powerful of this approach, was simply the INTENTION that I was applying.  It was almost as if these young people could FEEL the shift in ENERGY that I was exchanging with them.  I stood very still and soft and quiet, and refused to get “sped up” in TELLING them to “BE QUIET PLEASE”.

Rather, standing still and listening carefully to the noise or shouting that they were doing in my direction (not necessarily with bad intention), making eye contact and showing that I was listening to them —

at each moment that I was able to do this, there was an interesting subtle shift in these small boys’ and girls’ behaviour — a cognizance that I was not fighting with them, or trying to be AUTHORITY FIGURE teacher to them, but — what a novel concept — simply relating to them as another human being.


THIS seemed to have quite a powerful effect on the classroom atmosphere.  Particularly early on, as the tone was set for the duration of the class.

It was not easy to maintain this stance, but it was not tremendously difficult either.

I even spoke to them, of my needs, and tried to listen to their needs.

Frankly, as there is quite a language barrier between us, this may have seemed foolish.  But even if they did not understand all my words, it rather seemed that the energy alone — their feeling of my approach to understanding them from the heart, not from the head, or from norms or as a dictatorial authority — really changed the dynamic of the classroom.

And I certainly did not lose authority by this.  If anything, I gained a legitimate authority, that of a human being, rather than just an incomprehensible teacher telling them what to do.



Anyways, this was just an opening experiment, and I hope to keep working on this and perhaps blog about my experiences doing this in future, as I seek to gain more knowledge and refine my method.

What Renunciates and the Law of Attraction have in common: the Art of Allowing

There exists in the world’s spiritual teachings a common theme, which can be found in expressions of this teaching as disparate as (for instance), the renunciate sage Ramana Maharshi, on one hand,  and the modern teachings of “Law of Attraction” such as those voiced by Abraham Hicks, on the other.


This is what we might call “the Art of Allowing,”  allowing the intelligence, Source, God, or Self to Work Through Us .  It is “allowing” in the sense that is not so much about doing, but “allowing oneself to be done through“, we might say.


It is a surrender to the flow and workings of life.  This does not mean surrender in the sense of giving up, or becoming a mere unintelligent puppet of source, —

but rather in the sense of an intelligent sensitivity to the subtleties of the moment;  and a “going with” the intuitive feel of what is right in that moment.


This does not mean that “Do-ers” are not allowing the Self or Source to work through them.  Indeed, often those inspired by Source and allowing it to “work through their hands” as it were, end up being the most active beings of all.


For instance, Ramana Maharshi, when some questioned him about what work should be done in national politics (this was in pre-independence India), replied that Gandhi was simply allowing himself as a conduit for the Primordial power of the Self to work through:

“Adhyatma sakti [the primordial power of the Self] is working within him and leading him on. That is enough. What more is necessary?”

Ayurveda on Napping, Vedanta on Sleep

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian study of medicine, suggests that taking a nap during the day (“daysleep”), is best done under certain conditions.


Ayurveda recommends that napping should not happen on a full stomach.  Better to nap on an empty or semi-empty stomach, and then one wakes up light and fresh.


Ayurveda generally holds that napping is not a problem in the hot summer months or hot weather.  However, it warns against napping during cold seasons, for people of certain constitutions.

Specifically, “Kapha” people should avoid napping during winter months (and frankly, Kapha should avoid napping during summer months as well, unless completely necessary).  As Kapha already has a tendency to slowness, docility, and the risk of lethargy, a nap may exacerbate these traits.


That said, for Vata and Pitta types, naps can be extremely beneficial.


Advaita Vedanta on Sleep 

The Indian non-dualist philosophy of Advaita Vedanta actually holds up “deep sleep” as a particularly important state, in some ways privileging it over the other two states — the waking state and the dreaming state.


This is because, in deep sleep we are “reconnected with our source,” and no longer subject to the illusions of the ego and the external world.


That said, the ideal of Advaita Vedanta, is that one can become cognizant of one’s identity as source, not simply in Deep Sleep (when one is not really cognizant, frankly), but also in the waking state.

That is true liberation, when one can be one with one’s source, and not deluded by the apparent ego or individuality, while awake and alive.


Sages such as Ramana Maharshi are said to have achieved this state — of constant awareness of the True Self.

Highly Sensitive Men (HSM), the Masculine, and Gandhi

I have been quite interested in the last few years in the phenomena of Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), largely because I am a Highly Sensitive Person myself;  and in particular recently in Highly Sensitive Men; again, because I am one myself.

What is High Sensitivity?  With the reader’s indulgence, I will copy my introduction from elsewhere:

High Sensitivity is an innate psycho-physical trait which comes with great benefits but also very real challenges.  It is found in 15-20% of the population — too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you. HSPs have a greater sensitivity to their surroundings, often greater empathy (generally involuntary), a tendency to pick up on myriad subtleties in their environments, as well as to be overwhelmed more easily, due precisely to their perception involuntarily picking up on so much….


The bulk of the research on this has been done by the terrific Dr Elaine Aron, who pioneered this research and work, and has written several books and done much to publicize the emerging-ly understood phenomenon of HSP.   This trait, I would remind non-HSP’s as well as HSP’s themselves, is well-supported by empirical research.   Elaine Aron’s website,, is a great starting point.



But why I am interested in the situation of Highly Sensitive Men (HSM), is multi-faceted.

For one thing, I find there to be what we might call an interesting tension between the masculine archetype on the one hand — which David Deida, for example, characterizes as being defined by an “unwavering consciousness”, as well as a toughness or independence, an ability to stand outside of a situation and view it dispassionately, an ability to be a warrior, whether physical or spiritual; and so on.


And on the other hand, the situation of Highly Sensitive Men. Being more sensitive to the stimuli in their environment, it may be more difficult for Highly Sensitive Men to maintain their strong and unwavering consciousness —


Largely because, simply we might say, their consciousness is aware of so much more    than the consciousness of the majority of the human population.

As empaths or sensitives, they are taking in a tremendous amount of stimuli;  and this much more easily leads to over-stimulation, giving them what might seem like a less strong or masculine aspect.

Also an increased sensitivity to pain, to loud noises or bright lights, to the emotions and energies of others around them;  would all seem to contribute to making it more difficult for the Highly Sensitive Man to take on the Warrior archetype.


That said, perhaps we should be mindful of the great achievements of certain Highly Sensitive Men throughout history, who were warriors in their own way.


The most relevant to this discussion jump out as Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi.  These two were almost certainly Highly Sensitive Men.

Gandhi’s story in particular is the story of the evolution and growth of a man who was incredibly sensitive (for all of his life).   In childhood, Gandhi’s sensitivity made him at times painfully shy and nervous.  Even having grown up and moved to England, he had a terrific fear of public speaking.

In his autobiography, Gandhi recounts the story of how he was to make a brief address at his Vegetarian club (really an unimposing small group of unusual Englishmen, the English vegetarians of the 19th century) — he planned merely to read his speech off of a paper, but upon standing up, his head spun and he nearly fainted from this novel situation, and was unable to read his speech.  He gave it to another man to read it out for him.


This was the same man, who years later would address millions, who would speak to crowds of many thousands, with an extraordinary self-assuredness and not a trace of fear or uncertainty.  A man who would become one of the greatest leaders of his century, and indeed one of the greatest human leaders in history.


Gandhi’s example shows that Highly Sensitive Men, by embracing their unique gifts, can become spiritual warriors of the highest degree.  In our next post, we will examine more carefully the example of Gandhi, and how he used his sensitivity to his advantage, despite the real difficulties it must have put in his way.