How can you discover opportunity or an unseen blessing when life presents you with what may seem like an unwelcome event? Last week, I shared some pretty intimate windows into my own experience of what happens when God closes a door and how I managed to make lemonade out of life's lemons. This week, I'd like to shed a bit more light on the process.
If you want to find your way forward, if you want to overcome your version of apparent adversity, how you respond to the issue will turn out to be much more relevant than the issue itself. As cold and stark as it may seem, if you tell yourself that you're screwed, you're screwed. It doesn't really matter how unfair the circumstances might seem, the only thing that is going to make any real difference comes down to how you choose to respond to whatever has befallen you. It may take a leap of faith in order to find the blessing in your apparent misfortune, but if things are going to improve by something other than blind luck, you need to take the leap.
If You Have But Faith
Faith is one of the world's most loaded and misunderstood words; however, if you spend some time researching its origins, you may discover that the word stems more from a notion of trust rather than blind allegiance of some kind as it has come to mean. The particular usage I find most helpful is that of having trust in the future coupled with trusting in your own ability to take action toward that future.
If you would like to discover the unseen blessings in what has befallen you and find your way into your next opportunity, then you will need to learn how to trust your deepest self to take the necessary actions to improve. In my experience, it comes down to learning how to observe your life through your Soul-Centered eyes and not just your physical eyes -- listening to your Soul-Talk, and not just your Self-Talk.
An oversimplified example: If you find yourself in a room full of horse poop, your Self-Talk and physical eyes will correctly identify a pretty crappy experience. However, your Soul-Talk and Soul-Centered eyes will start looking for the pony. If all you focus on is the poop, you are unlikely to ever discover the pony.
Obviously, you need your physical eyes when you are navigating your way down whatever path you are traveling. Obstacles do exist, and you will undoubtedly stumble into unforeseen horse poop along the way. Your physical eyes will be of great value in both avoiding some issues and identifying others; however, it is through your Soul-Centered eyes that you will have the opportunity to discover the most useful pathway forward as well as the hidden blessings along the way. You might want to start with asking yourself, "Where's the pony in all this crap?"
Not everyone experiences the path the same way, much less sees the same scenery along the way. We all know the hackneyed cliché that life is a journey, not a destination, and yet even when you know that, your physical eyes may only notice the upset in the twists and turns, the ups and downs along the way. Your Soul-Centered eyes will seek out and discover the hidden value, the lessons and unseen opportunities along the way. The lessons and blessings are actually hiding in plain sight all along the way, often right in the middle of the ups and downs. If you approach the twists and turns with a sense of being screwed, your physical eyes will overlook the opportunity hidden in the apparent challenges.
The Stability Myth: Why We Cling to the Past
I learned many years ago that most of us tend to cling to a false sense of security that comes from our search for what we call "stability." Stability, of course, is a myth. Nothing on this planet is stable -- everything is a constant state of change, growing or decaying. Change is the order of the day. Even the Rock of Gibraltar is being withered away by wind and rain, so if you are busy trying to hold on to what was, you are playing a losing game. When your life circumstances change, as they inevitably will, you get a choice -- your self-talk and physical eyes will want to cling to what was, which can lead to a form of decay, while your Soul-Talk and Soul-Centered eyes will tend to embrace the change and look for ways to move into another period of growth.
In my own experience over the past six months, an entire universe of blessings has opened to me, hidden within the guise of rapidly changing or even deteriorating circumstances. When the doors of client work, residence and relationship all closed in rapid succession, my Self-Talk and physical eyes told me that loss was upon me yet again. However, my Soul-Talk and Soul-Centered eyes encouraged me to seek an expanding future, one that would surely be different, but one that would be expansive were I only to seek it.
This Too Shall Pass
If you tell yourself you're in trouble, trouble you shall find. If, instead, you listen to your soul, you will seek and discover opportunity. Nothing is forever as the old saying goes, and so too are difficult circumstances. When I lost my client work early in 2011, my Self-Talk told me that I needed to get busy replacing what I had lost with more of the same. Even though I was able to do so, that work quickly vaporized as well. This second round of disappearing work and income got me listening to my Soul-Talk, looking through my Soul-Centered eyes. The question I began to pose to myself: What is coming downstream for which these former ways of working are no longer sufficient? How does clinging to old forms of work limit my ability to move to the next opportunity?
As I opened to the possibility of a new, more invigorating future ahead, new opportunities began to appear. For example: Had I clung to what had been, I would not have had the time or flexibility to discover the challenges and exhilaration of my new role with The Huffington Post. Had I desperately clung to my former relationship, I would not have been available to discover the unbridled joy of my relationship with a woman I first fell in love with 32 years ago.
Much of this has to do with how you relate to the notion of "loss." Most people can relate to loss in the context of "lost" income, "lost" homes or "lost" relationships. In that sense, very few of us look forward to our next loss. However, the notion of loss comes more from your Self-Talk than it does from your Soul-Talk. For most of us, our Self-Talk has been programmed from the time we were quite young when many of us learned to view certain changes in circumstance as losses. Indeed, when my father died and we lost yet another home it was pretty easy to view those as times of loss. Add in living in my car or having my wife fall in love with another man, and most of the world would have readily agreed that loss was, indeed, the order of the day. However, each of these apparent losses contained within them the opportunity to make new choices, to create a new future.
Through the numerous challenges that I have experienced, I have discovered that whether losing a home, a relationship or a source of income, the more I dwelt on what I had "lost," the more staggering the sense of loss became. While my physical eyes and self-talk could readily identify what had befallen me, my Soul-Centered eyes and Soul-Talk were able to identify what might be coming rather than focusing on what had been "taken away." It wasn't easy, nor was it instantaneous, but I have learned that apparent loss can be transformed into an opportunity to grow, to improve and to reach new heights.
In my current situation, I am making about half of what I have in the past, live in an apartment that is considerably smaller than my former house, and yet I find that I am more alive, more in touch with what matters most to me and more filled with a sense of blessing and joy than I ever could have imagined.
Listening to my Soul-Talk while learning to see through my Soul-Centered eyes has provided me with subtle yet powerful insights into the choices I can make, leading to an improved journey along my path. The more I listen and see through the wisdom of my soul, the less resistance I experience and the more grace and ease appears. Grace and ease seem to follow from acceptance and understanding, while upset and anguish stem from resistance and clinging to the apparent stability of the past.
Could Your Seemingly-Impossible Good Already Be Present?
If you want to try something really radical for the week, write this down and put it on your bathroom mirror: My seemingly-impossible good is happening now. I know this may seem weird, but what do you have to lose, other than the sense of loss? The more you can remind yourself of this little affirmation, the more you may find yourself discovering ponies in unexpected places.
In the meantime, how are you doing? Could you use a dose of grace and ease? What has "befallen" you? What "losses" have you suffered? How much longer do you need to persist in the suffering that comes from viewing life changes as losses? How can you view your changes as opportunities to create an even better quality or experience of life?
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
For more by Russell Bishop, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
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