Several years ago, I visited Tierra Del Fuego, an incredibly beautiful island off the tip of Argentina, and home to the southernmost village in the world. This land of jagged snowy peaks is also the home to an enormous colony of beavers. These beavers are not native to Argentina, I was told, but were brought there from Canada in the 1940s by some ambitious entrepreneurs, who thought they would be able to make a fortune out of the beaver’s furs. Their reasoning seemed ingenious: the beaver’s only predator was the bear, and there were no bears in Argentina! With no predators, the beavers would multiply quickly, and they would reap the benefits, selling the expensive furs and making a fortune.
The plan was soon put into action, and 25 pairs of beavers arrived in Tierra Del Fuego. As the beavers went about their beavery ways, the entrepreneurs waited gleefully for the fruits of their labor. The beavers did indeed multiply, but something rather unexpected happened — the newborns did not develop thick coats like their Canadian relatives. In fact, their coats were totally useless.
The distraught entrepreneurs soon learned that the beaver’s coat grows thick when the animal experiences fear. With no bears, there was no fear, and so their coats did not grow!
In our society, comfort is king. Anything that makes life easier and requires less effort, is prized. We have learned to avoid confrontation and conflict, to value routine over the unknown, and security over spontaneity. Yet often it is the things that make us uncomfortable — the hard knocks, the disappointments and the losses — that challenge us most in our lives. They are the storms we wish we did not have to weather, yet they are the storms that make us strong. They give us maturity and responsibility, for what better teacher can we have than our own direct experience?
Life becomes stagnated when we remove the challenges. Just like a spoiled child, who when finally facing the world, finds himself without the skills to function in society, if we overprotect ourselves and try to avoid the inevitable conflicts of life, we may find comfort, but not growth. We may find distraction, but not self-realization. To flourish and grow as an individual, we must face the world head on, and embrace the losses and disappointments life brings us. Then, instead of perceiving them as the obstacles in our way, we can use difficult situations to grow, to push through our boundaries and expand our horizons.
How did you grow from a child into a responsible adult? Was it by not making any mistakes? Or was it through learning from the consequences of your actions? Ultimately, we have to go through things ourselves before we fully understand. Maybe, when we do so, we will think, oh, now I see what mom was talking about, but it is having the experience that brings us to maturity. The way we raise our children often reflects our need to protect ourselves from the natural challenges of life; we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did, yet maybe they have to in order to become wise.
It is natural to experience ups and downs in life. We are having a human experience, and that entails a wide range of feelings and situations. When we begin to nourish an internal space of security and unconditional love through the expansion of consciousness, we start to experience these extremes more freely. We begin to embrace the contrasts of life, and find adventure in change and uncertainty. Self realization is not about living in a permanent blissed out state where you never feel any emotions. It is about embracing the contrasts of life fully, without fear: established in internal freedom, the need to control our circumstances falls away, and we can dance unfettered to the varying harmonies of the symphony of life.
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