As I write this, I am sitting in a fog of drowsiness from several sleepless nights with my little one. Many times in the last few days, I have let my tiredness get the best of me, succumbing to impatience, snappiness, and down right grouchiness. I know that I am doing it, and yet I can’t pull myself out of it. I have even caught myself giving myself permission to be surly due to my lack of sleep. Last night, at 3am, rocking baby to sleep yet again and feeling a little sorry for myself, I started to think about this little challenge, and all the little challenges within my days, that could either be reacted to (which is what most of us do), or responded to. I realized that my most potent teacher is often in the smallest, most every-day moments within my life.

Let me explain….

At some point in all of our lives, we will encounter great change, which usually causes a lot of shifts and pain. We all know that these big encounters with change are often our greatest teachers, whether they take the form of a break-up, an injury, an illness, or a great loss. These obstacles come into our paths to change our direction, to wake us up, and to teach us what we need to know. These changes are like the universe shouting at us, forcing us to grow.

The rest of the time, we go through our lives with most days being fairly normal; there will be small ups and downs, joys and pains, gratifications and aggravations. Things such as driving home in bad traffic, gloomy weather, sleepless nights, frustrating family members, and other small challenges are almost never looked at as being ‘teachers’. And yet, all of these small moments add up to a whole, and that whole is our life. If we constantly are in a state of reaction to these small challenges (and often giving ourselves permission to react, as in ‘I have every right to be steaming mad at that driver who cut me off, and I’m going to let everyone know!’), then we spend an awful lot of time being annoyed, unhappy, stressed, etc., not to mention how it affects those around us. We all have our triggers! The challenge is then to take these daily moments and choose to see them as teachers- as opportunities to respond as oppose to react. These moments are our chance to again, and again, and again, try to be a happier and more pleasant person.

How do we do this? Trying. Working at it. Catching ourselves. Trying again. Noticing our triggers and patterns. Trying again. Did I mention trying again?

For myself, this means realizing that no matter how frustrated or aggravated I am, it will never change the person, traffic, fact that I am tired, or whatever other situation is challenging my equilibrium. It means letting go. It is driven by truly wanting to feel content and peaceful in my everyday life, even in the grinding moments.

These moments are subtle, but are always in front of us, and are therefore our biggest (smallest) teachers. These tiny, daily challenges are like the universe whispering to us, saying ‘you can choose, you can choose…’