Eckhart Tolle speaks well about navigating the unavoidable challenges life turns up.

The question of life is never, “Will there be challenges?” The question is always, “How will I respond to the challenges when they come?”

The impermanence of life makes it impossible to find lasting sense of satisfaction in the external world. When life does not unfold as we think it should, we experience pain; it is challenging. No matter how enlightened we may be, the challenge remains.

It does not mean there will be no more challenges. It does not mean the world will suddenly manifest permanence. All the forms by which you are surrounded are impermanent, fleeting, nothing lasts for very long. It’s not that you have built a life that provides a sense of absolute security, where everything’s so wonderful. The external world is not the source of satisfaction ultimately.

Things do not always go precisely as we plan. When things “go wrong,” we resist our circumstances, telling ourselves the painful story that this should not be happening. Resistance increases.

Another word for challenges is things going wrong, things that shouldn’t be happening.

When things go wrong people get upset because they think nothing should go wrong in life. That’s an absurd position.

Instead of labeling what is happening with the word “shouldn’t”, we need to see, says Tolle, that the challenges have an important function to play in our lives. Challenges can work for us, if we allow them to fulfill their function. They exist to enable us to open to a deeper level of consciousness.

Whatever happens in your life is there ultimately on a deeper spiritual level, is there so you can live this… out of a new state of consciousness.

Of course we have to navigate the practical realities of life with common sense. But every situation offers a deeper opportunity beyond just coping or actively resisting what is.

There’s two aspects of the situations that arise in your life – one is the practical level. The situation is happening because of this or that. But on a deeper level, this situation is happening for you to dissolve the unconsciousness around it.

We can rail against difficulties. We can whine about the people we have to deal with every day. Or, we can understand that the friction-points of life offer the opportunity for spiritual practice.

We don’t need to complain about peoples’ unconsciousness. It’s there for a purpose. Otherwise, how would we practice presence? Without it there would be no deepening of presence, no intensification of presence.

Wood shines when rubbed smooth by sandpaper. The beauty of the sculpture emerges from the drab slab of granite as the sculptor knocks off the rough edges with hammer and chisel. In the absence of pain, we lose the opportunity for our true beauty to emerge. Tolle affirms that a life with no pain, if such a thing were possible, would be a life with no growth.

If you lived a totally protected life only coming into contact with people who are absolutely awakened or kind to you or perhaps because you have a position in society, you would not evolve at all; your consciousness would not evolve. You would go to sleep.

In the absence of challenges, no growth.

Instead of resisting circumstances that are not as we wish, Tolle suggests we view them as opportunities to stop being controlled by challenges and instead choose “non-reaction”, which Tolle defines as being in a state “of presence.”

It is more important to be in a state of non-reaction, of presence.

The choice to live in “presence” instead of reactivity is always available, no matter how difficult circumstances may be. Living from presence enables genuine life-giving change and makes us agents of change in the world.

As you practice not feeding in to the unconsciousness, you will notice gradually a certain change around you in the external world. You will notice a lessening of conflict. There’s definitely a relationship between your inner state of consciousness and how you experience external reality. How you experience external reality is through your state of consciousness or unconsciousness.

Life is fundamentally an inner journey. The responses we choose in the face of the challenges we face help create the world in which we live. The more we face the things in life we feel are wrong, without allowing those circumstances to control our feelings, the more we are able to live in the freedom of our true and deepest nature. The is the path to what Tolle calls, “a new world.”