In her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron wrote:
I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, “I didn’t want this, and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.” He said, “Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.” Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift.
I have heard this story in so many different forms over and over again. Heidi von Beltz, a former championship skier and aspiring actor, was paralyzed from the neck down in a head-on collision while working as a stunt double in The Cannonball Run. Years later, she stated in print and TV interviews that she was grateful for the crash because it sent her life veering onto a new course, a path of greater understanding and spiritual awareness.
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.
My late friend, former triathlon champion Jim MacLaren, was also grateful for the two vehicular accidents that rendered him a quadriplegic. “Even though both accidents were devastating at the time, I now view them as gifts and not tragedies,” he said.
Pure Divine Love is no meek priest
Or tight banker.
It will smash all your windows
And only then throw in the holy gifts.
Jim insisted he would not trade his years of paralysis for a restored, healthy body. “Having to admit to my own dependency and vulnerability actually made me more powerful,” he said. “For me, the journey has always been about going deeper and becoming more of a human being.”
People with diseases like AIDS and cancer feel an urgency in straightening out their lives, examining their purpose, and confronting the reality of death. Ironically, in spite of the physical and emotional pain they experience, many of these patients express gratitude for this opportunity. The encounter with their own mortality changes their priorities in life, their values and aspirations. For many, it makes them truly cherish life and the ability to give and receive love.
Expressing gratitude for such horrific experiences is incomprehensible to most of us. Yet it is undeniable that when we look for beauty, even in the most challenging of times, it is there to be found.
The barn burned down. Now I can see the moon.
Recognizing, much less appreciating, the upside of suffering requires great maturity and wisdom.
I saw grief drinking a cup
of sorrow and called out,
“It tastes sweet, does it not?”
“You’ve caught me!” grief answered,
“and you’ve ruined my business.
How can I sell sorrow
when you know it’s a blessing?”
It may take years to realize that what was calamitous at the time was instrumental in your spiritual growth.
Sorrow is a fruit. God does not allow it to grow on a branch that is too weak to bear it.
Rare is the soul who serenely reframes burdens as blessings even as they unfold. As Dr. Bernie Siegel points out, “It’s not like you get hit by a truck, wake up in the hospital in a body cast, and shout, ‘Thank you, God!’”
You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Yet, hold fast to your reverence for life, even as darkness descends, and suffering will take its place at your table and sit quietly with folded hands.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy.
ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier
Here is a two-minute video introduction to Through God’s Eyes.
• an overview of the book
• the complete table of contents
• the Foreword by Caroline Myss
• my Introduction
• chapter excerpts
• a sample end-of-chapter story
• endorsements from authors and thought leaders
Just click on the link below to download your free PDF sampler!
THROUGH GOD’S EYES PDF SAMPLER
Schedule a Mastery Mentoring phone session with Phil to learn how to apply principles of spiritual living more effortlessly and effectively. Priced affordably! Click here to e-mail Phil for details.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent people he interviewed, including Joan Borysenko, Deepak Chopra, geneticist Dr. Francis Collins, acclaimed sportswriter Frank Deford, Dr. Larry Dossey, Wayne Dyer, Dan Millman, Caroline Myss, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Bernie Siegel, James Van Praagh, singer Billy Vera, Doreen Virtue, Neale Donald Walsch, and bassist Victor Wooten.
Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories. Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers. Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.
Sixty Seconds was one of three finalists in the General Interest/How-To category at the 12th annual Visionary Awards presented by COVR (Coalition of Visionary Resources) in Denver on June 27, 2009.