I’m writing this for anyone who’s going through something unplanned. When the unexpected strikes, it might not on the surface feel like an invitation. That’s why I’m writing this, because what if you were able to see whatever “it” is, as a gift?
One of my college professors had this saying; “it’s all continuous improvement.” She used to say that to everything.
Now that I’m a little older and have had the chance to reflect on what she was saying, what I take this to mean is that everything is a lesson.
I’ll admit, there have been some things in my life that haven’t felt like “improvement.” But I have been able to see the lessons and find meaning in some of the painful and most joyful moments of my life.
I prefer to look at circumstances in life as though they’re happeninging for me, rather than to me. This helps me reduce stress, make peace with what is, live with more purpose, and experience more joy and love in my life. It can do the same for you.
If you’re willing to look for them, there are pearls of wisdom inside sadness, greed, loss and even in times of crisis. This is how we open up, through willingness to be lifelong learners and continuously look for what we can take from the experiences that show up for us.
I learned this even more deeply when I turned on Oprah one day and discovered her guest that day, Eckhart Tolle. Something about him resonated with me. Even though I couldn’t fully grasp everything he was saying, something inside me knew I needed to listen.
So I did. And I went out that day and bought his book, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose.
That’s when I was introduced to the idea of acceptance and non-judgement. Practicing non-judgement means not weighing something as “good” or “bad” but simply accepting that it is. When we want something to be different than it is, we resist reality and in the process end up with a lot of suffering.
Can you think of a time when you resisted what was happening in your life? If you’re reading this, maybe you’re resisting something right now.
What if you were able to take a step back in your own mind – kind of like taking a 3rd person view point – and witness what’s happening without attaching any emotion to it. Close your eyes and give it a try… can you see your circumstance through non-judgmental eyes?
I’ll admit, accepting what “is” is not always easy. It was especially difficult for me in 2002 when I got arrested for a DUI. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing that could happen. It felt like a punishment and for a time I couldn’t see how I’d move past it.
Once some time passed and I was able to process what happened and see it through these non-judgmental eyes, I could see that this was the rock bottom I needed to push off and rebuild a life.
Now, I can’t imagine where I’d be or what my life would look like without this reset. One of the scariest things is thinking about where I’d be if I had continued to feel punished by what happened and continued to drink and abuse my body and mind.
I would have missed out on a whole lot.
So I speak from experience when I share that life definitely has its share of challenges and painful moments, but that there are ways to move through them and find the lessons that make you stronger.
When you find yourself resisting something unexpected, give this a try:
- First, allow yourself to feel your feelings. When you jump right away into distancing yourself from your initial feelings, you’re not honouring your body. So take some time to feel whatever you’re feeling – journal, talk, go for a run, or cry it out.
- When you’re ready to take a different perspective (I recommend doing this sooner rather than later, so you can move out of pain and pity and start healing) set a timer for 5 minutes to give yourself space to close your eyes and visualize the situation from a 3rd party perspective. This will help you separate yourself and your emotions from what is.
- Once you’ve locked in a neutral perspective on what is, set the timer again for 5 minutes and allow yourself to breathe into what you’re feeling. Whatever feelings come up are ok.
- Then write down the lessons that you can see after changing your viewpoint. Depending on how much time has passed since your unexpected event, you might not have many things on your list. That’s ok. Keep this list close by and add to it over the next few weeks, and months so you can continuously train your mind to see the lessons.