In ancient India, many left-home people, or sramanas practice ascetic practices, such as body mortification, starvation, or other forms of strict discipline. The idea at that time was to reach a higher state of being through these practices. For example, one might reach the state of the samadhi, or "emptiness" whereby they don't feel a single emotion or sensation. However, this practice only allows one to reach the state of the Dhyana heavens, but not ending birth and death. The Buddha also once practice asceticism, for 6 years, before realizing that this form of practice did not give him the answer to end birth and death. Hence, he stopped this practice, practiced the middle path.
In Buddhism, there are many practices of hardships. The self-discipline someone gives for themselves could be considered hardship. One could set an amount of prostrations per day, sit in full lotus position during meditation, and not move the legs when it gets numb, or recite the Buddha's name non-stop for one week, one month, or three months non-stop, only resting to eat, or use the washroom. Even so, the person will silently recite. All these are examples of practicing hardships in Buddhism. The real test comes however, not during the practice, but when the person is not practicing. Can we sustain what we learned during the hardships, and stay grounded, stay stable? Even during the practice itself, we can hardly endure the hardships.
However, in my opinion, one very good way of practicing hardships, is becoming friends with people you dislike, hate, or despise. It could be accepting the things you dislike from other people, or acknowledging that someone is better than you at certain areas. It could also be accepting that the person you like is in a relationship with another person, and that makes you furious. This hardship, is something we always tend to avoid all the time. Hardships with relationships, or with people. Hardships that tend to be related to what we like or dislike.
This form of hardship is very hard to cultivate. When we see someone we dislike, we normally generate aversion towards the person. This happens even at a young age. "You took, my cookie. I'm not going to be your friend anymore". And so, after that incident, every time the two children meet eye to eye, they generate this thought, "you took my cookie last time. I'm not going to say hello", or "you unfriended me for taking your cookie, I'm not going to talk to you". This feeling of anger, hatred causes us to suffer. The easy way out is to avoid this person so as the anguish or the flames of hatred will not appear. For adults, it is the same thing as well. Married couples argue a lot, and divorce happens because no one communicates with each other.
Why is it so hard to make peace with other people? Often when argument ensues, we would want to think that we are right, and others are wrong. Maybe we are right, or maybe we are wrong. Even if we are right, when our emotions get the better of us, we are not focused, our thoughts are scattered, and hence we could not make good decisions. We could win the argument, and lose a connection with someone, or lose the argument and win a connection with someone. Often at times, we want to win the argument to show that we are better than others. Arrogance will not bring us anywhere. The rabbit loses the race because of arrogance. Businesses lose out due to arrogance, thinking that they are still at the top, and unwilling to change. Changing the external conditions is almost impossible, and yet we are constantly doing it. Scientists try to control many variables in their experiments, and yet they cannot control it fully. Hence results of experiments were due to conditions at that time, and specific to only that conditions. It is already very hard to replicate experiments as it is very hard to control so many conditions. That is why becoming BFFs with people you hate, dislike, or disagree with is very hard. We do not want to give in, let go, change, while we want others to do that for us. But everyone doesn't want to give in, let go or change, while wanting others to that for them. How can we then expect ourselves to be successful?
So to practice hardship, we have to learn to do the hardest thing in life: Change, give in, or let go of our ego. If we learn to encompass everyone in our hearts, we learn that we are not independent in this world. We may think that "I built this business myself. Who are you to tell me what to do?". However, without clients, or other people to inspire you, how will your business succeed? Without the authorities to list your business on the record, how will you even begin to start your business? Therefore we are dependent on others.
By being inclusive of others, we learn to change ourselves, give in to others at times so that we can maintain our networks with them. If we become inclusive of people surrounding us, we become a exemplary leader to our families, friends, and community. If we become inclusive of the country we live in, we become good leaders of the country. If we become inclusive of other nations, we foster great relations with others. That way, whatever hardships that may come to us, will not difficult, as we have the support of our families, friends, community, country, or other nations.