No one wants to go through difficult times but it is guaranteed as part of the human condition. Welcomed or not, our struggles season our soul and push us toward becoming the person we are meant to be. Our evolution becomes “conscious” when we are able to look at the events in our lives with wonder, curiosity, openness and gratitude. However, this is often the last thing we want—or even think to do when life gets us down. I know this and can write about it because I’ve had many of my own experiences that seasoned my soul and pushed me forward in both my human and soul evolution. I write it now to help you in your own journey forward.

The year 2015 was the most challenging twelve months of my adult life. My twenty’s and thirties weren’t all that fun either (father dying, graduate school, marriage, divorce, several moves for more further education and work, family issues, etc.), but that year will always be remembered for being life-changing on both a human and soul level. As a human, I dealt with common, but very difficult issues. Among other common stressors, my dog of sixteen years started his final decline at the same time that my mother did—Morton (Morty for short) died on April fourth of that year—mom passed on September 4th, exactly five months later. Both were in terrible pain at the end, which was excruciating to watch since I felt completely helpless in either case. The human condition had me in a headlock and I had nowhere to go but through it.

On the soul side of things, it was much different. Somewhere around February of that year, I remember telling myself (probably out of desperation), “This is a rough patch. I will get through it.” At that point, I shifted into a more conscious mode of experiencing the human condition so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grow as a soul. Yes, that year remained difficult, but the awareness that I was learning and growing—a period in time that seasoned my soul—helped me not only get through that terrible time, it also helped me stay alert to what I was supposed to learn along the way.

I learned more about how people (and animals) prepare for death. I learned more about how I handle grief—and how it is different for every soul that touches my life. I learned more about friends and family—and who would love and support me no matter what. I learned more about how I had overlooked unhealthy dynamics in relationships just because they were family and we were supposed to stay “close” during times of death. I learned about how I put up with far too much just to keep the peace, enduring a great deal of discomfort and inconvenience just to make life easier on others. I learned that I really am a strong person even though I felt like a puddle of mush most of the time. I learned more about my spiritual beliefs—and had many of them confirmed throughout the year.

The list could go on. But the most important thing I learned during that year was that I would grow much more if I remained open and “conscious” in difficult times. My soul would be comforted by the mere fact that I was learning and evolving in the midst of pain—my soul was being seasoned at the very moment that something was triggered in my human condition.

The discomfort we feel at times like that is real. But what most people don’t realize is that this discomfort is the sign that we have the opportunity to experience a karmic shift. Certainly, watching my beloved dog and my elderly mother go through parallel processes shook my human condition deeply. But it was the magic of staying aware and conscious during that entire time that facilitated my soul’s growth into a whole different level. There is unquestionable discomfort when we experience human change, discomfort or grief, but much of what we feel is actually a karmic—or evolutionary—shift. It is the point in time when our souls are given the opportunity to grow “through” our difficulties. It is what we do with the discomfort that makes all the difference.

Gratitude doesn’t usually come easy in times of crisis and pain, but it is the magic elixir that soothes the soul. Working to remain conscious and aware during difficult periods allows us to find the golden nuggets of growth to master the human condition and continue to evolve as souls with grace, humility, and gratitude.

Each year we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. We pause to give thanks for the things in our lives that seem important. What would it be like to experience them with more grace, humility, and gratitude? What would be different if we paused to appreciate how we have grown throughout the year?

Thanksgiving has historically been a time to acknowledge the things outside of us that we often take for granted. Perhaps this is the year to recognize our internal growth that allows our souls to evolve.

How will you give thanks for the evolution of your soul?