Iron, When Heated In the Flames and Pounded, Becomes a Fine Sword

About 13 years ago I was at a crossroads.  I could’ve moved on in the world of high finance and multiplied my financial fortune to live a cushy life in a mansion on the beach or become an artist/yogi and embark on a treacherous adventure that would test every limit of my being and bring ultimate gold,  glory and  fulfillment.   As I look back on  the monstrous struggles I’ve endured now as an artist and yogi following my personal legend, one thing is clear:  Only from great challenges can we find our greatest rewards.  Of course that’s the rub…

A Fine Sword Must be torched and Beaten

As Nichiren Daishonin a 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk put it:

“Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword”  

You can’t get the ultimate gold, glory and fulfillment from life unless you are thrown into the flames of challenge and pounded into fine steel.   Following your dreams.. now that’s a challenge, as it may mean being self-employed, not knowing where your next dollar is coming from, being in charge of the marketing, manufacturing and 10 other aspects of your biz or enduring single status because you refuse to settle for someone who doesn’t share your values.   This all may sound scary, but you know what,  its absolutely the most wondrous, liberating, adventurous, powerful, limitless place to be.

Why?  Because it forces you to dig deep and see what you’re really made of.   And if you do it enough you not only get good at it but you find out how powerful you really are and connecting to that infinite source is the truest joy of joys.

Having challenges and overcoming them are one thing you can count on in life and as Nichiren Daishonin put it: “The wise will rejoice, while the foolish will retreat”.  These people, and I’d like to consider myself one of them, welcome and seek out challenge as they know it will help them grow and expand into an even greater person who then has a greater capacity to serve the world and himself.

In contrast, working for someone else doing something you’re not passionate about, getting a guaranteed paycheck, eating at Jack in a Box, staying in a relationship out of convenience, those things are all EASY!  They don’t create much challenge, anyone can do them and of course, most do.  But these people are the ones who always complain and are eternally dissatisfied with their lives.  Not only that but they bring others down into hell with them just so they can feel like they aren’t the only ones in hell.

Now here’s the paradox of a cushy life, these things may seem easy, but they are in actuality harder, because doing things we aren’t passionate about and being around people who don’t inspire us is not something we look forward to, its a drag, it becomes hard on the soul and can lead to intense internal depression, stress and illness.  In contrast, doing things you love to do, even if it means being broke for a long time is easy because we like doing it and at the end of the day you are full, you sleep better and the “world is your oyster” as they say.

Whats the lesson here?
Challenges are not to be avoided, rather they are to be sought out like food as they will shape you into a fine sword able to cut through any challenge of life.  At the end of the day, those who win over challenges expand their capacity and grow larger.  The more expansive and large (mentally and spiritually) you are, the more happiness you can experience in this lifetime.  Note, ones expansion can’t be completely focused on themselves nor completely focused on others.  The balance here is somewhere around 50/50 give and receive.

So Jump into the Flames and Enjoy the Pounding, it could show up anytime as an evil friend, an asshole boss, unemployment, loss of love or any other challenge.  This is the food of life and should be enjoyed just like any other good food!