Disappointment as an Opportunity for Growth

Sometimes, even yogis with deep spiritual and meditation practices get knocked off balance by life.

A wise teacher of mine once put her hands out in front of me, palms facing each other, and said, “My right hand is our circumstances, exactly as we are right now, my left hand is how we want things to be or wish things were, the space between my hands is where all suffering lies.”

I remember staring at that space between her hands and thinking, “it’s not that simple.” I now have to admit, after years of practice I realized, it really is that simple.

Accepting what is, instead of resisting it, relieves suffering.

The problem is, choosing acceptance over suffering is a very difficult practice.

I was blessed with a chance to explore this practice recently when I was faced with a big disappointment, I felt cheated, rejected, and hurt.

I had been working on a project which had the potential to help me reach one of my greatest life goals. It was early in the application process and I was trying to focus as much time and energy on the project as possible. I had very high hopes that, if accepted, I would be able to increase joy for myself and others and expand further into living my life’s purpose. After many hours of work, I received a rejection notice. I hadn’t even gotten an in-person interview! I was hurt, upset, and felt vulnerable, sad, and defeated. I was upset that I had even tried. I felt deflated like the wind had left my sails.

I have a great life, but I believe part of living our best life is pushing against our edges. To grow and experience all we are meant to in this life, we need to move out of our comfort zones. Of course, during COVID this has been nearly impossible for most of us. Now that the world is opening back up, I recommend you take stock of where you are and see where there’s room for growth now, and as long as you feel safe, go for it.

Why am I recommending growth and going for it after I just got rejected and hurt?

Because, through this experience, I have had a chance to grow. I have used the tools of mindfulness and meditation, yoga, my spiritual practices, and advice from all the masters who I have studied to gracefully move through this rejection and become more of the person I want to be. After processing my rejection, I had the chance to review and reorganize my resilience toolbox and see how many practices and teachings I have at my fingertips to help me through tough times.

How did I get through this latest challenge and come out stronger and more optimistic than ever?

First, when I received the rejection message, I felt sad.

I recognized I felt sad.

I also realized that responding in anger or sending a return message with anything but acceptance would result in increased chaos. So I wished my rejector well, sent hope for the more appropriate choice, and ended the interaction on a positive note.

I didn’t feel positive, but I knew the decision was made and I needed to let go.

It wasn’t easy of course, I had to process all of the built-up excitement energy of my hopes and dreams and then the low energy of disappointment, it was an emotional rollercoaster.

In the old days, I would have made things worse by taking on an unhealthy self-soothing technique like drinking alcohol, eating comfort food that is low in nutrition or spreading my anger and disappointment to others. Instead, I picked up my resilience toolbox full of the things I’ve learned to use to cope with difficulties and I sat quitely. 

I practiced R.A.I.N., developed by Tara Brach, PhD, which I wrote about here. I sat with my feelings and observed them. As the ride continued for several days, I noticed when I felt sad, angry, hurt, insecure, and I gave myself the grace to just feel each feeling. I chose nourishing practices like writing, walking, meditation, and talking with a supportive friend, I nourished my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

I thought about something Maya Angelou said, “If things don’t work out, say ‘thank you’ because something better is coming along.”

Next time you feel things are not as they should be, look for the lesson. Look for a way you can grow through the challenge, ask yourself, “what is this disappointment allowing me to learn?”

In processing this rejection, I grew in compassion for myself, optimism that this missed opportunity, although painful, will allow me to follow a different and better path.

I know more difficult events will come, but as I greet each challenge as an opportunity, hold compassion for myself and the experience itself, I can continue to grow, learn and receive the most that I can from life, especially when things don’t go as I had hoped.

Blogs are coming out less frequently beginning this month, all are archived on my site for further reading.

I hope to see you all soon in a class or coaching session. Have a brilliant summer.



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