It’s always good to learn from our experiences. This is how we grow and open, it’s how we develop character and begin to know ourselves. There’s a lesson in everything, but not everything is a lesson, and I think that’s an important distinction to make if you want to be at peace.
I’m a yoga teacher, and I’ve been teaching for quite a long time, and I know a lot of yoga teachers. So my newsfeed is filled with inspirational quotes on a pretty frequent basis, and some of them are great, and some of them make me want to stick toothpicks in my eyeballs like they’re deviled eggs on a tray at a cocktail party. Sometimes people will post things like, “There are no bad events, there’s just the way we respond to them.” Oh. Really? There are no bad events? Can anyone be awake and say that, looking around the world today? There are plenty of heartbreaking, devastating events, and that’s true personally and globally. Pain is part of life, and to deny that is to live in a dreamworld full of unicorns and glitter, with an occasional leprechaun running through.
Another really popular saying: “Everything happens for a reason.” I always cringe when I see that, because years ago, in another lifetime, I said that myself. Then I got older and saw some things and went through some things, and realized that’s an awful thing to say, even though I meant well when I said it. It’s an awful thing to say, because you never know who you’re saying it to, especially if you say it in a room full of students you don’t know personally, or you post it on social media to friends you don’t know. What if there’s a grieving parent in the room, or on your newsfeed? Do you think they’re going to take any kind of comfort in that idea, or do you think you might have inadvertently alienated them, leaving them to feel even more alone and angry than they already did? I’m not saying you can’t believe that, I’m saying it isn’t a compassionate thing to say.
“Everything is perfect and unfolding exactly the way I need it to for my soul to evolve. This moment is offering me everything I need to know.” Get me the f&cking toothpicks. When we speak in these terms, we’re suggesting there’s a divine plan, and a certain path that’s been designed just for us, so that we can get the lessons we need, and maybe you believe that. Maybe you believe in karmic inheritance and reincarnation. I’d love to believe that. I’d love to believe we get more than one crack at this thing. I’d love to believe that some of the devastating things that have happened in my life have happened in order to balance out any of my past transgressions, and to help my soul evolve in this lifetime. I mean, reincarnation is such a comforting idea. We get to come back, and maybe we even get to travel with the same souls, we get to be with our loved ones again? That would make death a lot less scary, right? And I mean, we know energy doesn’t die, it just changes form, so who knows? We’re energy. And I believe in the continuation of consciousness, because that makes sense to me, and because I want to, but I don’t know for sure what happens after this, and neither does anyone else, and I’m not going to pretend differently. And because I don’t know for sure, I’m not going to say things with confidence that might not be true. What I do know for sure, is that we get to choose the lessons. We get to decide what we’re going to glean from our experiences, the wanted ones, and the unwanted ones. We get to decide if we’re going to pick ourselves up and start again. We get to do the work to grow beauty from our pain, or not.
Anyway. Here’s the other problem with that line of thinking. If you believe everything is happening for a reason, you’re probably also going to treat the trials and challenges of your life as some kind of test. You’re going to ask yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” In other words, you’ll relinquish your own power. Sometimes we exaggerate our own importance, and sometimes we dishonor it. I mean, there are about 7 billion of us on this planet. Each of us unique. So right off the bat, we’re going to have 7 billion distinct experiences, but there’s universality, right? I mean, talk to people. We’re a lot more the same than we are different. We all dream. We all long for connection, love, touch, understanding, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. We all have our heartbreaks, our unfulfilled wishes, nights when we’ve cried ourselves to sleep. We all feel alone in this gig from time to time, on the outside looking in, when really, we’re on the inside looking out.
If you see a pattern in your life, if you keep making choices that lead to your heartbreak, I’d take a good, hard look at that. Then the question is not, “Why is this happening to me?”, but, “Why does this pattern keep showing up, why do I keep making these choices, and what is this pattern trying to reveal to me?” That way, you’re acknowledging your free will, and your own power. Things are not just happening to us. Life brings its everything, and we respond. We co-write this story.
Sometimes people do crappy things because they’re young and selfish, or they don’t know themselves well, or they grow in a different direction, or they can’t face what they want so they make a mess. You don’t have to be on the receiving end of poor treatment, wondering where the lesson is for you. I mean, again, if it keeps happening, then yes, you have to ask yourself why you keep picking people who lack the tools to love you well, but we can all cross paths with a scorpion from time to time. The only lesson in that case is that people in pain, spread pain. That is all.