I heard the most wonderful story a while ago on satellite radio and I thought I would share it with you: A spiritual monk had a beautiful monastery in Northern Italy and he invited many of his students to spend time with him, fish in the beautiful natural lakes and enjoy the cleanest air imaginable.
Often times, he hosted week-long retreats for busy corporate leaders to simply get away and clear their minds. Sometimes, he would even lead silent retreats where no words were spoken for 48 hours, as participants were encouraged to let go of the noise in their minds' and hearts. Very often, the leader of the retreats would ask the participants to perform the most menial tasks, simply to teach them to enjoy the power of the moment and to focus on their breathing, their thinking and their presence of mind.
There was one participant named Henry, who lived at the monastery for an extended period of time, who truly rubbed people the wrong way. Henry complained, never sounded grateful, and just flat out made many of the fellow travelers miserable due to the onslaught of his constant negativity.
One day one of the retreat leaders asked the participants to move some freshly laid sod from one area of the lawn to an another area over 100 feet away. This was a painstaking process as the grass was moist and would fall apart and crumple up and make a devastating mess everywhere.
Of course, as you can guess, Henry was quite livid over this mindfulness assignment and he just yelled at the top of his lungs, got in his car that had not been driven in more than six months and left the monastery in a mad dash.
After Henry departed, many of the participants cheered and sang for joy as the crabby volunteer had finally left. Immediately the lead monk got in a car and raced after Henry and quickly brought him, back. As the lead monk got out of the car with Henry he smiled, and said: "What do you mean, ‘volunteer' exclaimed the lead monk. Henry is not a volunteer. I pay him to be here!"
What the lead monk was referring to is the true test was not the menial tasks he had asked the participants to endure, but rather how they responded to Henry's continual verbal onslaught of pessimism and negativity. Many of the participants failed the test and learned a valuable lesson when they shouted out their joy when Henry left.
I share this story with you not to encourage you to simply tolerate challenging circumstances. But, rather, I share this with you as we are all confronted by negativity. Negative media stories, neighbor gossip, family patterns and internal struggles. The essential key is how we respond to these adverse conditions and how we allow then to impact that precious internal island of peace.
Deep within there is a reservoir that cannot be touched. It is that place that you and I access to maintain a positive connection to all of life despite any hardships we are confronted with.
The lead monk at the monastery was purposefully exposing his guests to a challenge that they had to overcome.
If we look with new eyes to see what tests lay ahead of us that we may overcome and learn from, life takes on a new meaning.
Dr. Jason Kolber is a licensed doctor of chiropractic and a certified life coach. Contact him at (480) 704-2787 or www.livinginline.com.