This is Spiritual Design



Long ago, the Buddha was speaking in a small town, sharing what he’d learned about freedom from suffering, when a woman suddenly rushed up to him holding the body of her child. Through wrenching sobs, the woman, Kisa Gotami, begged the Buddha to bring her child back to life. This was at a time when the people were unsure of whether the Buddha, because he had become enlightened, was a man or a god.


The Buddha spoke gently with Kisa. He told her that her child could come back to life if she found a mustard seed from a home that had known no pain of loss from death. Kisa ran from house to house, and she heard story after story of loss – of parents and elder relatives, children, friends, teachers, and others. The people wept over these losses, but they also smiled when telling Kisa stories about the people they loved.


As the day ended, the sun set over the village and Kisa returned to the Buddha with an understanding that everyone is touched by loss. With the help of the villagers, Kisa laid her child to rest. She was in deep pain, but her suffering in grief’s isolation was over.



One of life’s ultimate and undeniable truths is that loss is a part of the fabric of life and this story reminds us each and every one of us will experience loss, great and small, over the course of our lives. Something happens – a break up, death, illness, money issues, job loss, divorce, what have you – and we are touched by pain. We suffer. We feel all the emotions that come as a result of the event: anger, hurt, sadness, grief, frustration, confusion. And while the pain itself is inevitable, we forget, or don’t even know, that there is both a road to loss and a road after.


The road to loss will require us to feel and be with our difficult emotions, something we all eventually find our way to. But, it’s here we often get lost, thinking the road to loss is simply to be lost in our loss. The road after, the road out of loss, is the one in which we harness our pain as strength, the place where we use our pain to drive us forward.


Titiksha (tih-TEEK-shah) is Sanskrit for endurance and in yoga, Titiksha is the capacity for enduring difficulties – it’s the strength that comes from knowing you can endure your challenges. Swami Asokananda, one of the Raja teachers at the Integral Yoga Institute, says that “Titiksha is knowing that we have an inner strength that allows us to endure. We’re all going to go through challenges, and we’re going to feel it, but it will come and it will go. Titiksha is the strength we have to endure our challenges until they pass.”


Titiksha is showing up when you’re at your breaking point. Titiksha is seeing that when you think you’re at your lowest point, when you think you are your weakest, you’re actually the strongest you’ve ever been. Titiksha is remembering you have a choice: you can run and hide and not show up, or you can endure.


Looking back at some of my lowest moments, the ones that brought me to my knees – a deep depression that landed me in Friends Hospital for three days; an eating disorder that almost took my life away; the loss of siblings and relatives; the pain of moving on from people, places, jobs, relationships – the moments that I thought, This is it. Surely there is no way out, ultimately became a place where I grew exponentially, one where I found myself far stronger than I was before.


I can look back and realize I’ve been through many hells and now I’m sitting here, whole, complete, beautiful. This is something we can all do in retrospect. But often, the moments we find ourselves back in an incredibly challenging or devastating moment, the moment we arrive on the road to loss, we forget there is also a road out.


I can look back and go Yeah, I’ve been through hard things before, and I can honor that journey and the incredible strength those low moments afforded me, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling the pain of whatever is happening right now. Knowing you’ve endured doesn’t always mean you remember you can endure this too, especially when the pain cuts deep.


In in these difficult times, when we’re staring at our pain and we can’t understand why something is happening, in the moments we find ourselves on the road to loss, the best thing we can do in those moments is cultivate Metta, a lovingkindness and compassion toward ourselves, our circumstances and ultimately towards the things that cause us pain.


Practicing Metta

To practice a loving-kindness meditation, allow yourself to find a comfortable, seated position. Take two or three deep breaths – slow, long and complete inhalations and exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest, in the area of your heart.


Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat the following phrase:


May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.


While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness.


After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:


May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.


As you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning.


As you continue the meditation, bring to mind other friends, acquaintances, strangers, and finally people and circumstances with which you have difficulty. Repeat the phrase:


May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.


and allow yourself to draw compassion and love around these individuals and circumstances.


Sometimes during a loving-kindness meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. With whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for these difficult feelings, direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.



When we find ourselves in difficult places, Metta allows us to draw compassion around ourselves and where we are and that softening allows us to lean into our difficult emotions. This is incredibly empowering because by leaning into our emotions, we can harness our pain for potential and find Titiksha.


It’s no accident that we can find reserves within ourselves to keep going during our most challenging times – things we swore we couldn’t handle, before actually being put to the test.


This is spiritual design. We feel the pain. We feel it might break us. And in truth it might. But, even things that are broken can be repaired.


From one enduring human to another, I bow to you,