The Grounded Challenge: Practice Mindfulness with Your Difficulties

By Leo Babauta

Our lives are filled with difficulties, from frustration and stress to illness and loss, from uncertainty and doubt to fear and guilt … but while they can often be the source of wearing us down, they can also be a source of growth, transformation and beauty.

Most of us don’t think of our difficulties as a source of beauty, but what if we could be grounded in the middle of the difficulty, turn towards the struggle instead of away from it, and be fully present to it? What if we could learn to befriend it, even love it? What if we could find gratitude and joy in the midst of the pain?

This month, I offer you a challenge. It’s to practice mindfulness with all of your difficulties. I’m calling it the Grounded Challenge.

I’ll give you an example before sharing how the challenge works … I just got back from a 3-week trip around the world, and I’m suffering from really strong jetlag. This is easily something I could complain about, and let it become a huge problem. And sure, it is a problem … but it’s also a great practice opportunity.

Here’s how I’ve been practicing (and please note that this is only one way to practice):

I notice the tiredness, the stress about not sleeping well, the feeling of not wanting to do all the work that’s piled up, the wanting to shut down to everything. I mindfully drop into my body, noticing how it feels, noticing any tension, noticing the physical feelings of stress and resistance. I notice my stories about all of this, and thought patterns that have come up around this like everything else.

Then I stay with the physical feeling, becoming curious about it. I relax any tension, allowing myself to relax into the feeling, to be with it with gentleness, to open my mind to it, to accept the feeling as it is, without needing to get rid of it. I give the feeling compassion, some friendliness, some love. I see that this moment is beautiful, just as it is, including the stress and difficulty. I find gratitude for having the feeling, as it is a part of my beautiful life.

This kind of mindfulness practice isn’t meant to get rid of the problem, or dissolve the feeling. It can stay there, just as it is. The practice is to learn to be with it, to become grounded in my stress, to transform my relationship with my experience, even loving my experience as it is.

We can practice with any of our difficulties in this way. Join me in practicing this month.

Here’s how the Grounded Challenge works:

  1. Commit to doing this challenge every day for the rest of the month (no matter when you are starting). You can commit publicly, on Facebook or Twitter, or join me and more than a thousand others doing the challenge in my Sea Change Program.
  2. Practice. Try to remember to practice with any difficulties that come up — stress, frustration with someone else, disappointment with yourself. More below.
  3. Weekly check-in. Report on all of this weekly to whoever you committed to — if you’re in Sea Change, you can check-in with us.

So you try to remember to practice any time a difficulty comes up. That’s a pretty tall order, because they could come up at any time, and potentially all day long! Do we need to be perfect? Not at all. In fact, if you practice just once a day, you can consider that a success.

Just once a day, practice as I described above (or in other ways that you might find, or that I’ll share in the Sea Change Program).

We’ll add some additional ways to work with the difficulty, but starting here will be enough of a challenge. You can do this!

It’s worth the effort. Join us in Sea Change to get articles, weekly check-ins, and a live webinar on this challenge.

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