If you have been watching the newest television sensation, This is Us, then you will remember the sour pill Jack and Rebecca are forced to swallow in the first episode. Now, I don't want to spoil it for those of you who still may want to watch the show but haven't joined the party yet (and I strongly recommend you do), but it is in that first episode that Jack receives profound wisdom from the doctor treating his laboring wife. He leaves Jack with this, "you take the sourest lemon that life has to offer, and you turn it into something resembling lemonade." This to me is the key to maintaining peace, gratitude and contentment on our journeys.
Interestingly, yesterday as I was flipping mindlessly through the TV channels, I was reminded of a movie that offers us the same insight. You may have guessed it from the title, the epic 90s fan favorite Cool Runnings. You may recall that Derice Bannock, the main character, is preparing for the race of his life. He is about to run for the Olympic trials to join Jamaica in their race for the gold. In one of the first scenes in the movie Derice calls to his wife "this is my time," as he gears up for the trials. Little does he know that this huge moment will also end up being one of his greatest disappointments. On race day, one of his competitors--we come to know lovingly as Junior--trips, falls and takes Derice and Yul Benner down with him. While Yul Brenner responds with a pungent rage, Derice shakes off his initial disappointment and turns lemons into something resembling lemonade. If you don't remember how he does that, watch the movie. It really is a classic.
Many times we get so hung up on the negative or challenging things that come our way, we forget to look for the silver linings. Biologically it isn't really our fault. We are hardwired to avoid pain and move toward pleasure. But sometimes, discomfort and even pain can benefit us tremendously. Especially when that discomfort is the result of our trying to serve one of our brothers or sisters. Allow me to give you an example. The other day I had just finished teaching a beginner yoga class. I typically stick around afterward and take the next instructor's mindfulness yoga class. The studio where I teach does not keep loaner yoga mats, and one woman walked in looking particularly upset by this reality. Noticing this, and feeling obligated to offer as a member of the staff, I gave up my mat so that she could practice on one. I fully accepted the fact that this would mean I practiced on bare hardwood floors. I was okay with that, as long as I got to stay for the class. This particular yoga mat was not that great anyway. Whenever I am traveling to studios or events to teach, I bring one of my less valuable mats in the event that my scatter-brain forgets it(I have already lost 2 mats due to this character flaw to-date). So the lavender, thin, worn out mat was loaned out and I settled in to begin practice. Before I even began to warm-up, the instructor of this class--having noticed that I lent out my mat-- gave me hers. And if there was a 5 star, luxury rating scale for yoga mats, this mat would have been a 6. It was double the thickness of my puny mat. It was spongy, but firm and the texture of the mat made it so that my hands and feet did not slide at all for the duration of the class. This scenario reminds me of a powerful verse from scripture. "Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours," Isaiah 61:5. I, like many, refer to this verse as the double for your trouble verse. Many times, when we are willing to sacrifice on behalf of others, we receive a double blessing to compensate us for our giving, if inconvenienced hearts.
Admittedly there are times, when situations are so awful, they appear irredeemable. Nothing can reverse, or substitute for the pain and emptiness experienced at the death of a loved one. But we do have the power to choose ur focus. Surely we need to feel the full range of emotions we experience during a time of tragedy. If you look closely enough however, there is always a silver lining we can focus on. Recently, after the death of my grandfather with whom I was very close, I was heartbroken. In the midst of that pain I was simultaneously blown away by the way in which our entire extended family came together to honor him and make new memories together. We had not ever before all been in one place at the same time without other people present. This was a special, intimate time for our extended family to bond over our common joy at having loved our grandfather and our common pain at having lost him.
So the question remains, how exactly do we turn lemons into lemonade. I typically move through a 4 step process every time life hands me a sour lemon. Here is my process:
1. Confront the problem head on
2. Feel ALL the feels
3. Choose your focus
4 Take action where appropriate
Life really is what you make it. We all have the choice to take the sourest lemon and turn it into something resembling lemonade. If you are going through a tough time and could use some perspective, I would love to talk with you. You can connect with me at our Contact page. Never be ashamed to reach out and talk to a professional if life is throwing you more lemons than you can handle. Sometimes the greatest sign of strength is in holding up your white flag, and seeking out the help that you need. May you find the blessing in the burden and turn your lemons into lemonade with ease. Abundant blessings to you, Namaste (This piece was originally posted in February of 2017)