Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place — a Spiritual Lesson in Overcoming Adversity


Life is never smooth sailing. All of us without exception have faced difficulties and challenges in life. Seeking happiness and avoiding miseries is natural for us. When in difficulty, we want to get rid of it quickly.


Nobody wants pain, miseries, conflicts, uncertainties, etc. in life. When they manifest, we want a quick solution. It is a natural instinct. But our desire for a fast solution often becomes an obstacle to finding the best solution.


This is a story by Guy Finley that illustrates this perfectly:


The Prince and the Dark Horse

There was once a young prince who, having reached the age of majority, left home to live on a grand estate given to him by his father. He was told that if he ever needed help, he was to put a light in the uppermost tower window, and his father would send a special horse and carriage to carry him to safety. However, his father also warned him that an evil wizard, an enemy of the kingdom, lived not too far from his new home. The prince was told to be wary when setting his signal, for this wizard would also see this light and might himself send his own horse and carriage to carry the prince off to who knows what kind of danger.


Of course, this frightened the young ruler-to-be. After all, how would he be able to tell the difference? His father assured him there was a fool proof measure. Each time, before entering the rescue carriage, he was to closely examine the horse pulling it. A light-colored horse would always take him to safety, but a dark horse would always take him to danger.


As one might imagine, many of the ordeals that come with the ruling life befell the prince, each one causing him to put a light in the window. For many months, because he was in such a rush to escape his castle when he felt in danger, he failed to heed his father’s warning; time and time again he neglected to examine the horse that came to get him. As a result, he often found himself on one painful wild ride after another where, too late, he realized his inattentiveness was causing him as much distress as the condition he was trying to escape.


Eventually, he found the presence of mind — before he would get into the carriage that had come for him — to see if the horse pulling it had been sent by the evil wizard or by his father. 



So, what can we actually do when we’re caught between a rock and a hard place?


Some may suggest to sleep over it, allow some time and the problem may get resolved. Sometimes it works.


Some may just wait indefinitely and do nothing. When we are “just waiting,” we are not being responsible. We think “Somebody else will fix it.” That doesn’t work. 


Instead of seeking to resolve the problem as quickly as possible, allow it to be around. Forcing answers just leads us down the path of the “Dark Horse” like in that story.


The best and the most appropriate solution will arise if we give it enough time. There are many things which are beyond our control. When we give time, we can analyze and view the problem from all angles. Our intuition may also guide us. Inputs may come from our past experience and new data. This will help in getting a clarity on a specific direction.


From that level, we are much more enabled to make decisions that are truly the best ones and not some quick fixes.


Next time you have a difficult decision to make 

Instead of controlling and trying to have a quick fix without proper analyses, we need to look at different aspects of the issue that will give us the knowledge we need to make the most appropriate decision.


Yes, sometimes situations require a fast response and a quick decision. For this, the most important thing is to have hundred percent presence in the present moment. Moreover, when we practice the above process regularly, we discover that the time we need to arrive at a solution becomes less and less.


We are also empowered to quickly recognize when our decisions are not the best and therefore, correct course immediately before it’s too late.


When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Tough situations don’t last; tough people do


“In our personal and professional lives, we are constantly hit with one adversity after the other, most of which we have no control over. But the four things we have total control over is how we react, how we adapt, how we breathe and how we take action.” Diamond Dallas Page 


“Any man can win when things go his way. It’s the man who overcomes adversity that is the true champion.” — Jock Ewing

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3 thoughts on “Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place — a Spiritual Lesson in Overcoming Adversity

  1. Chitti Babu

    This story of the Prince captures the situations we are in most of the times and how we in a hurry and clouded thoughts take a hasty and wrong decision. The need to think through an issue with equanimity is emphasized by the story. Thanks Guruji for sharing.

  2. Vimalchand Shrishrimal

    Excellent Article! In difficult situations when we have to take decisions, do not react. Understand the situation in the present prevalent circumstances, analyze, listen to your inner consciousness and then take a decision. It is not necessary that you will always be correct, but your consciousness will guide you at an appropriate time to take corrective step to get the desired end result.

  3. nimish

    Really enjoyed reading this article. My key takeaway is to slow down and not rush into always finding an immediate solution to get rid of the problem.

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