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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Other Face of Catastrophe


The Other Face of Catastrophe


            Disaster happens!   Severe tornadoes and the Mississippi River flooding are the latest in a long line of environmental catastrophes.  Lost or damaged homes, human life, possessions and crops have, once again, brought despair to human beings who urgently need a way to cope with the adversity that life can bring. 
            Viewing a situation in terms of its opportunities rather than its agonies can help anyone, anywhere to deal with hardship.  What if there was actually a grander purpose in all crises?  What if tragedies such as this could make us stronger and wiser?  What if we could learn something profound or useful from our experience?  I believe that it is the nature of the Universe in which we live to challenge us to improve ourselves and discover hidden pockets of knowledge and power that we didn’t even know we possessed.  If we open to this possibility, not only can we navigate rough waters more easily, but we can also develop amazing new versions of ourselves – ones more masterful and empowered, self-aware and compassionate.
            My life has certainly had its trials.  I’ve struggled with chronic illness, an estranged sister, irrational fear, deep loss, the murder of a close friend and a myriad of other “mountains to climb.”  I’ve worked with students and clients who’ve faced similar challenges: abuse, loss of jobs, homes and loved ones, hospitalizations, domestic violence, and yes, environmental disasters.  All of these events tend to rip us down, bring us to our knees or leave us raw.  And yet, it is in these very moments, when we are feeling most vulnerable, that we become willing to reach outward and upward.  We agree to reinvent ourselves, to consider new ideas, new knowledge, new behavior.  So it’s really to our advantage to undergo adversity with an attitude of curiosity and eagerness to learn what we can on the journey.  We are being presented with an amazing opportunity to make changes that we’ve always desired.
            When I was hospitalized a few years ago for 12 days with a serious and unusual illness, I was terrified at first.  I couldn’t have felt more vulnerable during that time.  And to make matters worse, my doctors were anxious and concerned about me.  They were afraid I wouldn’t make it, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I was as frightened as I’d ever been, and it didn’t help that medication I was on was adding to the almost constant anxiety.  I was dealing with loss at all levels, work, home, familiar surroundings, people I usually spent time with, a functional body etc.  But as I moved through my fears, using all the inner tools I had, including deep prayer and finally surrender, I was given all the resources I needed to further access and activate new inner sources of insight, understanding and vigor.  I have to admit that this experience helped to make me what I am today.    When the storm finally let up 5 months later, new and wonderful things came into my life, as if they were waiting for me to make room for them.   I published two books and began a new business, both of which I am extremely grateful for, and honored to share with others.
            However, the important story here isn’t so much “me” and “my” life.  It’s really about all of us, and the amazing human capacity we have to transcend real tragedy and rise from its ashes.  The human spirit is incredible, powerful, clever and resourceful.  If we can just believe this, we find that we can overcome any condition or circumstance with amazing results!  To me, evolution is about change, and change is first and foremost about letting go of mind-sets we’ve been holding onto that are really hurting us in some way.   Catastrophe provides a vehicle for letting go.  Evolution is also about adapting attitudes and perceptions that bring about greater freedom, security and happiness.  Viewing my illness in retrospect, I can see how Divine Spirit was at work the whole time, cradling me and urging me forward, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully.  Yes, it took time, and yes, the journey was uncomfortable, to say the least.  But now I see through different eyes and have total confidence that anyone who faces a catastrophe, if they want to, can fly again, this time higher than ever before! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Osama, William and Kate



      Every once in a great while, something happens that captures my undivided attention and begs me to contemplate its significance.  For me, this is the simultaneous occurrence of two very different events – events that are poles apart in nature, and that have the power to attract global attention.  These are, of course, the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the royal wedding.  To me, when we witness such synchronicity, there is always something to learn.  So here are my thoughts.      
         The death of Bin Laden and the joining of Prince William and Kate Middleton give the world a glimpse of the two extremes of human possibility.  Why are we mesmerized by a love story and relieved and maybe even ecstatic over the demise of a notorious terrorist figure?  Because "love" is our healer, our balm, our peace-bringer.  It is the absolute core of who we all are, and in its presence we are whole again.  Bin Laden represents the part of each of us that is abhored -  the wounded, hostile, diseased piece of each of us that needs healing.  Every human being holds within, both extremes of possibility, even though most of us are able to reside somewhere in the middle.  The closer we move toward our "loving" nature, and the farther we move away from fear and anger, the more peace abounds. If we learn anything from the symbolism of these events, may we realize that we each have the ability to choose and develop the loving side of our nature and to put to rest its opposite.  This choice lays the groundwork for the world in which we want to live.
         Consider, for a moment, that any human being, under the right circumstances, could behave as Bin Laden did.  For reasons we can’t be certain of, Bin Laden demonstrated the worst of what humans are capable of.  I would guess that somewhere along the way, he experienced and/or witnessed the opposite of love in his life; some sort of violation, degradation or lack of acknowledgment.  And I would expect that his role models were filled with fear or rage.  Couldn’t this be the reality of any one of us? 
         Now consider that “Love”, in its many forms, such as acceptance, honor, recognition, compassion etc. is what we each need to thrive and to be a positive contributor to society.  Without it, we are lost, we struggle to remain in control, and we may fall prey to imaginary fears and hostilities.  And yet, in the presence of any type of love, all of these conditions can be healed and we can be set free.   Imagine being in the midst of Kate and William’s celebration.  Might worries, anxieties and annoyances disappear temporarily?  Might the energy of this event have the capability of dissipating negativity?
         So what can we learn from all this?  For me, it is a reminder that my choice to treat myself and others with kindness, is well worth the effort.  It is a reminder that no matter what negative traits I possess as a human being, I need and deserve to be honored and accepted in my totality.   It prompts me to continue my journey toward healing the hurts inside of me, so that I can reclaim my natural state of joy and goodness.  And it helps me to remember that there is no human behavior that can disconnect me from the rest of the human race.  Contemplating these 2 concurrent events has been the ultimate reminder that my willingness and developing ability to hold acceptance and compassion for every human trait (negative or positive) is what I wish for us all.        
         I’ve chosen to start with me.  I know I’m not perfect.  I know there are parts of me to which I would rather not admit; parts of which I may be ashamed or parts of me, which I would like to eliminate.  Day by day, I am working to embrace these parts with the acknowledgment, understanding and love they need so that ultimately, I can respond to anything or anyone from my natural state of peacefulness.  I’m hoping that you will make this choice as well. This I desire for the sake of our children and grandchildren; this for the future of our glorious world.