Maybe you’ve heard it before. Maybe someone has said it to you, perhaps in an exact moment when the last thing you’d want to do is to try to learn something from whatever may be happening in your life! ;) (I know I’ve had more of those moments than I can count!) But seriously—can everything in life really be a teacher for us? And what if we really don’t want the lessons we may be offered?!
I can tell you that after all of the experiences I’ve been through in my own life and after all of the suffering I observe (very acutely) in this world on a daily basis, yes, I believe it’s true. Everything in our lives can really be a teacher for us.
And sometimes, the lessons we most don’t want to learn are the lessons that will help us grow in the most remarkable and wonderful ways in our lives! ;)
At times, some experiences also may have the potential to shut us down immensely, and sometimes we might shut down. However, I believe we are always totally free, no matter what our age or previous experiences may be, to move into a heartspace where we can emerge from shutdown mode into a mode of expanding inner understanding. This expanded understanding can in turn lead us to expanded potential, peace, and happiness in our outer world, if we are willing to let it do so.
Now, I understand how commonly controversial it can be to state that “everything in life can be our teacher.” Because the moment a statement like that is made, it might be very common for us to come up with a billion possible exceptions. “How can ________ possibly teach me anything helpful about life?!” So as a fun little exercise, I’m choosing to answer this very question with you today, by filling in that blank with several different very challenging possibilities and my thoughts regarding them.
My thoughts about these possibilities may be different from yours, especially if you’ve had some of these experiences yourself. But sometimes a very similar experience can teach each one of us totally different things, all of which we may choose to use to our benefit later on.
For instance, let’s get to one of the hardest ones first.
“How can the death of a loved one, or a huge change in my life possibly teach me anything helpful about life?”
In this previous reflection on grief, I have detailed in depth just some of what I have learned from experiencing the losses of two of my loved ones, as well as experiencing many, many big changes in my life. You can feel free to peruse that reflection at your leisure. However, to give a shorter answer here, one of the greatest (and hardest) things that experiencing the deaths of loved ones has taught me is that it is important for me to give my own life meaning from deep inside my heart, no matter who or what else may or may not be in my life at any given time.
From those experiences, I have also learned that no matter who or what else is or is not around me, I am indeed good enough, worthy, and deserving of creating a wonderfuland truthful life, if only for the sake of my own enjoyment and ability to be of service to others.
Another priceless lesson I learned was that life is indeed short, and it is not healthy for us to take it for granted. We may think we have years left of our lives, and I certainly hope that we all do. However, life is still short, and every second matters. Every second also gives us a brand-new chance to change direction.
Now, let’s go in a slightly different direction.
“How can a health crisis I experience or I see a loved one experience possibly teach me anything helpful about life?”
I have personally not had any severe health crises, although I have been through a moderately challenging one which may have turned into worse things down the road.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from that experience was that my physical illness was, for me, indicative of many other physical, mental, emotional, and (I believe) spiritual patterns in my life that were no longer serving me.
For me, at that particular time in my life, my physical illness was merely a symptom of many other areas of my life that I needed to deeply resolve, to make amends with, to befriend and accept within myself, and to grow out of and onward from.
Obviously there are seemingly an infinite number of reasons and potential causes for physical illness, and my role here is in no way to pretend that I understand or can advise on them. I simply share what I found to be true for myself.
Another amazing lesson that I learned through my illness was to really question what exactly I could change and what exactly I couldn’t change, in so many areas of my life. In doing so, I found that there were so many more areas which I actually had great influence on in my life.
I realized that I myself wasn’t accepting that I really had much greater power and control over these areas!
These areas included questioning medical professionals of all types when my actual illness (not just my symptoms) wasn’t improving at times, and continuously searching to understand myself and my body, mind, and emotions better.
These areas also included making more healthy changes to my mind, body, feelings, and environment, and realizing that my body was a precious vessel that needed great care and maintenance in order to best serve me in this life’s journey.
Also, frankly, I just wasn’t willing to accept that I would have to have this particular illness for the rest of my life. I knew that my body had not had it for years before it did, and I trusted in my own body to heal itself over time, with my assistance and that of others.
I also began to learn that if I was willing to do some of the deeper work and rid myself of different patterns that were no longer serving me, I sensed I would definitely feel much healthier, even if for some reason my illness’s symptoms were to remain. This work was definitely challenging, but I felt it was totally worth my potential for improved health.
Now, in saying this, I’m not in any way denying the fact that in some cases we can also choose to accept that with an illness, some things may be more challenging for us to do. During my illness, I certainly found that I had some additional limits I hadn’t had before.
However, I think that so often, it’s so easy for us, over time, to completely learn to become okay with some of the limits we may feel or are told are imposed on us due to an illness, rather than really questioning if those limits need to be lifelong if we commit to different types of change in our lives.
Does this mean that we can resolve all illnesses? No, I certainly don’t think it does. But does this mean that in believing that we must live with something, there is no hope or point to even try to make changes to our lives that may benefit our health? In my opinion, not at all.
Again, I am not in any way offering any professional health advice here. I am also in no way implying that “we cause our illnesses,” because I know that so many factors can be involved. I simply speak from my own experiences, to give you another perspective.
In the case of watching someone else experience suffering, I have had this experience with my mother as she progressed through a chronic illness which eventually became terminal. Again, I learned that life is short, and it and our health are not to be taken for granted.
Therefore, I believe we owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally throughout our lives, to the best of our abilities. Granted, unforeseen health issues and other circumstances do happen. But in focusing on maintaining good overall health, I believe that our overall chances of chronic illness can be greatly reduced.
Now, here’s another question that some of us in particular may be asking more and more in recent years:
“How can losing my job possibly teach me anything helpful about life?”
I have found that losing a job, or voluntarily leaving one, have taught me loads about life! After my last experiences in this area of my life, I was led into really focusing on making a career out of doing something that I truly loved with my life.
Now, I understand that it may not be financially feasible for us to jump into something like this right away. I also understand that not all of us desire to work for ourselves. However, if we believe that we have something to offer others and that it is worth our time and service to pursue something that we love, losing a job may indeed be one of our greatest teachers.
This experience may once again remind us that life is short, and we are worthy of spending it doing things which we love and which we may also really have or develop abilities in.
We may also learn that we are worthy of working through the natural fears that may come about with sharing our personal work or passions with others.
If we have no desire to work for ourselves, perhaps we may also be prompted to make a move to find work somewhere else where we can still work outside of our homes and do a job that we can at least genuinely appreciate doing. We may be able to pursue our passions over time, or we may just feel grateful to have another opportunity to serve others in some way.
We may have to make some adjustments in our lives if we lose our jobs, but they may turn out to be adjustments that can take us on a whole new, wonderful path in our lives if we are willing to make them temporarily and keep planning for an expanded vision of our future.
Okay—those were tough lessons, although for me, they were invaluable. Now, let’s shift gears a bit and consider a couple of possible everyday lessons.
“How can dealing with this ‘wonderful’ driver ahead of me on the road possibly teach me anything helpful about life?!” :)
Now, you may be guessing already that one of the more obvious answers I can give here is patience. Other drivers can definitely teach us patience! But there can be a lot more as well.
Maybe other drivers can teach us to ask ourselves why we might really struggle with patience or deep frustration if it shows itself while we drive. Maybe we’re driving to a job we feel trapped in. Maybe we have so much on our life’s plate that we are overwhelmed trying to handle it all. Maybe this other driver’s presence reminds us somehow of someone else in our lives who we feel angry at or hurt by and are struggling to express, release, and let go of that anger or hurt.
Or maybe we may be so used to things happening instantaneously in our right-now society that we can indeed choose to embrace patience and calmness and wish the other drivers ahead of us well.
We can also choose to embrace empathy. Who knows—maybe they’re having a hard day or life. Maybe they’re lost and their GPS hasn’t been helpful. ;) Or maybe they could have really used an extra hug today. Those are some of the deeper lessons that we can learn from, yes, road rage.
(Seriously? She’s finding deeper lessons in road rage?! ) Shaking your head yet? Yep—I’ve learned to find deeper lessons in everything! And maybe not right away, but eventually my stubborn mind will admit to them! :)
One last one for good measure:
“How can all the problems of our nation and world possibly teach me anything helpful about life?”
Ah, yes, this is a very, very common one. I struggle at times with this one in various forms myself, because every day we are all bombarded with these problems. But ultimately, what I’ve learned is this: We can only truly change ourselves. Yes, we can do great things in service to ourselves, others, and to the world if we feel so called. And ultimately, as we do those things, the circumstances and outcomes are generally out of our hands. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to do them, as long as we can acknowledge that outer circumstances are often out of our hands.
Because it can be so easy to get overwhelmed with all the tragedies, inequality, injustice, and other boatloads of hard issues in this world, I’ve found what works best for me is to tune out the noise, and yes, a lot of the pain, and focus on what I personally can do and what I feel most called to do to hopefully assist in bringing more light and goodness out in this world.
For me, this means actually purposely not watching the news quite often! Yes, I specifically choose that, because I know if a story or event is important enough, I will hear about it anyway. Further, I know that in general, at this moment in time, there is absolutely nothing I can do about many of the situations I hear about on the news. I only know that I can keep doing what I feel called to do to help make this world a better place.
So why choose to feel powerless for an extra half hour or longer every day? And why buy into some of the main tactics practiced by the media, which seem to me to include using grossly exaggerated and often totally fear-based melodrama, sharing graphically horrific or very personal details, and pitting people against each other? I choose to avoid all of that when I can. I choose to feel powerful—to do what I personally can do to shine light in this world.
For me, this certainly doesn’t mean tuning out the world completely. It just means that I know that overall I need to stay focused on what I feel I can do here in this world to potentially elicit positive change. And as one person, I can actually do a lot, maybe more than I might ever have imagined. But if I get bogged down in all the heavy energy of the world, I may just decide it’s not worth my bothering and not try to elicit that change after all. If we all made that choice, we wouldn’t have anywhere near the progress that the world has today, even though we may agree that there is still a long way to go.
In summary, I truly, fully believe that everything, no matter how difficult (or annoying!) it may seem, can teach us so many valuable lessons here in this life, if we are willing to open ourselves to receiving them and learning from them.
Some lessons we may not be able to see until we have passed through a really challenging situation. As in the garden analogy I described from the start, we may have a chance to choose to dig through some muddy ground in order to find the treasures. However, if we look for them, they may indeed show up and give us so much more perspective and assistance in our lives going forward.
Yes, it can require some effort on our parts in order to look for these lessons and try to learn from them, and we may definitely not always want to learn these lessons! But I have found that seeing everything in life as our teacher is worth the effort in countless profound and wonderful ways.
Here’s a challenge from me to you for this week: See if you can find one situation in your life where you can look for the lessons it may be offering you. Even more, see if you can make this a daily practice. On the road when you’re driving and if you get frustrated, ask, “What is this experience trying to teach me?” If you find yourself in an argument or a challenging situation, once you’ve processed the initial heated emotions from it, ask yourself, “What is this experience trying to teach me?”
As you ask these questions, be on the lookout for any thoughts that may try to convince you that you are powerless over a situation you might actually be able to change, and also for any thoughts that tell you that you can change a situation (perhaps involving trying to change another person or an event directly unrelated to you) that you may actually not be able to change.
Remember that your power is likely so much greater than you may have thought to imagine.
Also remember that your power lies within yourself and not directly beyond yourself.
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No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,