I wanted to begin my adventures in blogging talking about this notion that I’ve shared with clients from all walks of life – folks who’ve been able to honestly and powerfully step out of their ‘victim story’ by integrating this notion: all experience is generous.
I’m suggesting that it’s not only the pleasurable or joyful experiences that have something to offer us.
Oftentimes, the hardest experiences of our lives – the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, the end of a relationship, losing a job – can also be rich with opportunities to transform our lives. Of course, they also can be pain-filled, loaded with grief, or downright devastating. But this does not mean they are not also offering us something.
What would happen if we devoted ourselves to looking for what’s generous about loss, grief, hardship, or heartbreak?
Now, I am not advocating denial. Denying or repressing our feelings is neither healthy nor spiritually productive. Gabor Mate has made the case for this idea that suppressing our emotions is a leading cause of illness and disease. His book, “When the Body Says No” is a very worthwhile read if you’re interested in this kind of thing.
So, no, I’m not recommending that we pretend to be happy when we’re not, or otherwise deny our authentic feelings.
Rather, I’m suggesting that we ask ourselves what our feelings can teach us, and make room for them: holding a space for ourselves to feel powerful emotion allows us to experience both the feeling and the lesson beneath the feeling.
Crucially, we must recognize that when we repress the emotions that we find uncomfortable, we miss the lesson. Moreover, our joy, gratitude, and creative capacities are also muted, because when we repress the ‘bad’ emotions, we turn down the volume on all of them.
Simply put, I am suggesting that we do not need to be resigned to forever and only feeling helpless in the face of our grief, loss, anger, resentment, bitterness, or been-done-wrong feelings.
Rather, we can come to a place when we are authentically able to ask, “What can my anger about the loss of my father teach me?”.
Or, “How – amidst phone calls from creditors and utility companies – can I transform the loss of my job into an opportunity, a new experience, an inspiration to push me to confront my fear or shame about asking for help?
Can this experience inspire me to take a closer look at what it is I want to offer the world?
Can this event be a catalyst to community building, personal growth, or profound transformation in the ways I think about and move through the world?”
Once we’ve really done the work to see everything that an experience has to offer us – the good, the painful, the uncomfortable, all of it – thinking about or remembering that experience shifts profoundly, and takes on a deeply rooted quality of balance.
This allows us to move forward with an authentic recollection of what was challenging or painful about an experience, but also with an abiding gratitude for what it has given us.
Lived in this way, we can allow life’s difficult experiences to change us in the ways that we choose.
In this way, we can come to recognize that we are not diminished. In this way, life’s experiences can be consciously lived in ways that make us greater. This is consciously applying our highest awareness toward chosen processes of progressive transformation. This is freedom lived.