03/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Awakening America's Heart: Are You Going To Finish Strong?

So much for well-laid plans! The response from last week's article, (see archives: "Choosing Hope over Fear"), was so compelling, that I've decided to take the next few weeks to respond to provocative questions and comments. The series is called Awakening America's Heart. This week's focus comes from a reader's question: "How can we awaken more goodness in difficult circumstances?"

Now, I realize that combining goodness with difficult circumstances can sound either just a little too 'New Age-y," or, at the least, an oxymoron, for most. Especially to those folks who are committed to the belief that when you fall, there is no getting back up. Let me show you something that turns this idea on its ear. It will be well worth the two minutes, and if you are anything like me, you will never forget what you are about to see.

I hope you took the time to give yourself this gift. In this clip, Nick Vujicic demonstrates that it's possible to awaken the heart, giving inspiration to others through a situation that nearly everyone on this Earth would find debilitating. A hero, Vujicic finds opportunity where most would find a dead end. In him, we find that sort of bigness that is genuine, larger than all those Wall Street crooks trying to be 'somebody,' because they feel, inwardly, like a nobody. I am reminded of Norman Lear's words: "What we are all looking for is an urgent reawakening to the highest purposes and deepest obligations of our citizenship."

Where Do We Begin the Reawakening?

All we need do is look around for conditions that get our attention. It is no secret that difficult circumstances abound: daily job losses in the thousands, house foreclosure in epic proportion, people dying in frozen conditions in the Midwest, as well as in Middle Eastern war infernos. There is no shortage of places where our hearts need to be roused from sleep, if we are going to 'finish strong,' and live a higher purpose from what remains.

The question is this: why must it so often take this type of situation for us to awaken to what matters most? The fact is, this is the Way of Transformation. Before rebirth comes dismemberment. Check the stories of old, the myths that endured the test of time. Cross-cultural myths, the enduring stories, like Homer's The Odyssey, illustrate the Transformational process, and its required grist for the mill. Odysseus, its hero, must face the bloody process of dismantlement before he's allowed to progress. In Odysseus' case, he wanders around for more than ten years, trying to find his way home after the Trojan War. He's not the only one who suffers, however. His family waits and then, waits some more for what appeared might never come: the healing of their hearts, the end of their suffering. By the tale's end, Odysseus realizes that his difficulty began with his intoxication with power. Believing that his victory was attributable to his mortal efforts, he angered the gods. Pride goeth before the fall.

Why does this happen? I cannot say, for sure. All I know is this pattern lives on in the human psyche today. Check out the news. Just on the cusp of what looks like worldly success, conditions change. Think Michael Phelps, Tom Daschle, Ted Haggard. The higher the tower, the harder the fall. None escape.

Maybe a more useful question to ask ourselves is: what does this painful process serve? Let's recall a few who have experienced this process, and come out of it victoriously: Christopher Reeves, Michael J. Fox, Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks. When faced with what seems insurmountable, they find a means to trust their process. Releasing personal attachments, they find their authentic nature, and the freedom to express their Voice. Each became a participant in something bigger than their own plan. It all gets down to conscious choice.

A Real and Present Story

Here's a real example of awakening goodness in the darkest hour. Called to Genie's bedside yesterday, following her courageous 12-year-battle with cancer, my Soul-sister shared, as she lay dying: "I am not afraid. I am grateful. I've had it all: seen deserts, walked through forests, stood beside the ocean. I've heard birds chirping in my garden; feel the fresh breeze through the curtains at my window. I've loved, felt love, known joy and disappointment..." Genie comes to the threshold of this place between life and death, the doorsill into the Great Unknown with an Awakened heart. She is finding freedom through the unraveling of life as it has been. As she told me on the phone before I saw her: "I've decided to make a change in my life. I am saying goodbye to the Planet." What a difference she makes as she walks her final walk.

Good news! Suffice it to say, as Jung put it so well: "The experience of the Self (read: heart/soul) is always a defeat for the ego." The Awakening of our Heart as an individual, nation, and world requires first a death of our old ways of dealing with our relations. Hence, dismemberment in its varied forms: financial ruin, foreclosures, and losses of jobs, health, insurance, or love. Neither as individual citizens, nor as nations can we awaken heartfelt purpose, nor hope, until we've faced our demons around the demise of our customary lives squarely. Our own dismemberment turns out to be the very stuff from which our heart, our hope, our highest purpose is reborn, "...greater than the sum of our individual ambitions," as President Obama called it.

I'd love to hear your response to this very human process. I'll do my best to respond individually to your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and questions. Let's keep the conversation going! Blessings your way, Cara