Thank God I was fired? Thank God I got cancer? Thank God I got a divorce? Even though every cloud might have a silver lining, does it really make sense to actually be thankful for the tragic, even horrific events in our lives? John Castagnini thinks so, and he's out to show that he is not alone. Over the past few years John's Thank God I book series has published stories of authors from the United States, Israel, Africa, England, Spain, Australia and Canada. John was also one of the people featured in Demian Lichtenstein's full-length documentary, Discover the Gift, where he shared his personal story that began it all -- "Thank God My Mom Died."
I asked John to delve a little deeper into exactly what he meant when he made this startling comment.
John Catagnini: You see, my mom was my best friend... in fact, she still is. This was not about being glad that my mom left me. Writing my story was about the experience I had in transcending the illusion that life and death are indeed separate. If we look closely enough, the people who "leave us" are all around us. We know that energy/matter is not created or destroyed and that all beings are made up of energy/matter. So what makes us think that we are destroyed when we transition from this physical world? My mom's passing surely tested me. But through a miraculous experience she helped me transcend the illusion that life and death are separate. She gave me the greatest gift I could have ever imagined.
Ronald Alexander, Ph.D: What exactly was that miraculous experience you had after your mom died?
JC: Like many people, I was pissed, angry and confused when my mom passed but, I had been studying this concept of being thankful for all things for over a decade. Well, it was time to personally put to the test. A week after my mom died, I spent three weeks in Florida looking for the balancing in her passing. I listed all of her qualities, and where I could see now see them in my life. So I'm in a parking lot one day and I meet a woman named Lorraine (same name as [my] mom). I ask her age and she says 56. I'm thinking, wow, that's strange, same age as my mom. Well, she is smoking a cigarette, has a cup of coffee in her hand and is from NYC. My mom was infamous for her coffee and cigarette habits. I turn to my girlfriend and I tell her, "I guarantee you her birthday is Jan. 9." (This was the day my mom passed). I ask Lorraine when her birthday is. She stared right through me and said, "Jan. 9. Why?" From that moment on I knew my mom was here with me. I understood the perception of transformation. My mother, in dying, truly gave me the greatest understanding I could ever have. That's how I wrote my story.
RA: Why do you believe that it is so important to actually "Thank God" for the horrific tragedies in your life? Wouldn't you simply be lying to yourself?
JC: When I was in my 20s, I stumbled onto what I believed to be the most significant discovery of my life. I realized that anything that a person was not thankful for, they would simply repeat. That's right. In fact, the things that challenge us the most and that we judge the most run our lives the most! Sure, we have the freedom to stay angry, resentful, depressed or disappointed for as long as we choose. But in truth, every event has an equal amount of positives and negatives.
RA: OK... It's one thing to look on the bright side, but how can you possibly say that tragic and horrific events actually have an equal amount of positives as they do negatives?
JC: The "horrific" or "tragic" events expand our horizon. We conquer fears, we connect with others and we broaden our boundaries. Tragic events reveal that there is a power much greater than us in control. Humility, compassion and faith, which are some of the most spiritual aspects of our being, are direct results of our experiences with great challenges. Nothing pushes us to grow more than our growing pains.
RA: When you refer to Thank "God," is there a particular God, or religion that you are referring to?
JC: "ThankGodi" is simply referring to a state of gratitude. It does not support or deny any and all specific religions. Although the position of ThankGodi does support some overall organized design to our universe, in no way does it lay claim to support or deny any specific God, or any specific religion. At the same time, all of our authors are free to express themselves in relation to their own specific beliefs and/or religion.
RA: If one of our readers were going through a tragic event, such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one, how would ThankGodi be able to help them?
JC: You see, that's the entire focus of the ThankGodi series. We have collected and are still collecting real life stories, of people who have been through just about any challenge that you can imagine. One gains faith and courage by reading stories written by people who have experienced similar trials and managed to overcome them. I believe we are here to teach, share and serve one another. In sharing and shining, we truly become a beacon to those who might be stuck in their darkness.
RA: What advice would you give to our readers who are experiencing a serious life challenge?
JC: We have all heard the expression, "One day, you'll look back on this and laugh." It may not seem so at this moment. Right now, the pain seems so real. Right now, the world sucks, and you don't want to hear it. But if you stop and take a minute, you can discover some of the ways that this challenge has served you, and eventually you'll crack a smile. Simply choose to see both perspectives. Then if you list the advantages and how this trial has served you and others, eventually the smile will evolve into laughter with tears of gratitude. The universe hands to us what we are able to handle. It is in overcoming and loving our challenges where we develop our focus, genius and character. We can learn to equilibrate our minds so to speak if we choose to acknowledge the fact that there are equal amounts of positives and negatives to every situation. Thank God for your challenge, because it will give you have the opportunity to enhance your mind and your life.
RA: Thank you, John, and in closing, what can we look forward to in the future with the ThankGodi series?
Well Ron, we are currently accepting applications for six titles that we are filling in 2012. We will also be accepting 300 stories for publication and there's so much more. One of the things I discovered in developing ThankGodi is most people have a great story to share. At the same time, most of us can use a little help in effectively writing and presenting our story to the world. We have Emmy award-winning producers, award winning writers, New York Times best-selling authors, and top marketing experts on our team. Our crew is dedicated to helping our audience overcome their challenges, discover their voice and share their story with the world. I would strongly encourage your readers to check out our website at www.thankgodi.com and witness how many people we are helping around the world to love who they truly are -- a newly, equilibrated person ready to conquer and shine.
Follow Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ronalexanderphd