Before going into the ‘how’ of practising hardship I want to define where we are with regards to it and what is meant by hardship.
Many people today throw the word hardship around as if they truly understand it. If you have a roof, running water, food in your gut and shoes then you have something many still don’t. We are already blessed people, to buy this idea we have to give it some context.
I am not suggesting some don’t have it hard and that life hasn’t dealt poorer hands to some, but in the western world today where the victim is ever more given a stage to shout what they haven’t got and blame that deficiency or misfortune for their failings, it’s something we need to understand. An example of this victim hood culture is on the show The XFactor. Watch as each singer before going on stage is the star of their own sad story which pulls on the heart strings of the voting audience. Attempting to paint a picture, prior to being judged, of the hardships they have had to triumph over just to get to the show. Although some of these are genuine hardships, they are also, in another perspective, referred to as life. Good old life which comes with its unavoidable battles, losses and ultimately victories if understood and handled with equanimity.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that once our basic needs (food, water, rest, shelter) are met then we already have a platform for greater things such as love, achievement and accomplishment. While most of us have these basic needs then we essentially have no excuses to call on when trying to succeed.
Practising hardship for those who have plenty is going to be harder. It is in its basic form the art of sacrifice and practice of discomfort. A small win is the cold shower phenomenon people are literally waking up to. We have for decades had the extreme luxury of warm running water, we even waste gallons of it each day as we prep to get in the shower. By practising cold showering (I recommend gradually) we reap a book full of benefits. These aren’t fictional, but scientifically backed up and have been for years. The process is one of endurance, but does get easier. You feel sensational when out and dry and the muscles and mind are rewarded for it. It’s a small life win the benefits of which can be read online.
Some other hardships to practise:
- Train outdoors and make it difficult. Find a hill in the rain and run it. Take note of how you feel when you cold shower and get dry afterwards.
- Fast for 2/3 of a day. Your body and mind are boosted tremendously and will thank you for this.
- Walk don’t drive. It won’t be long before there are too many cars to do this casually anyway, get some practise in prior!
- Sleep outside. There are many ways to do this, some more comfortable than others. Pick a calm night, pitch a shelter and count those sheep (in your mind)
Some of the greatest developments of the mind and body are on the heels of hardship. There is even a movement strongly related to this – stoicism.
Go without something you desire as a small way to get into the practise.