How to take the good of Life’s lessons and dispose of the rest.
Yes, I’ve done this too – eaten the artichoke that is. I was nineteen at the time and in a very posh restaurant in Montreal. I was in university on the East coast and very attached to my boyfriend in Toronto. He was my first love and very handsome – like a young Michael Caine – actually Michael Caine was young then too. I would send soppy letters of longing home and he would respond with a carton of cigs and Ziggy Stardust album closing with the line: “Wish you were there”
I finally took his advice and that is when the College Bowl was on TV and he happened to glimpse me in the stands wrapped in a big red plaid blanket with a hunk of a mountain man from New Hampshire! Who knew? Anyway true to the nature of many men, what looked like it might go missing became more valuable and desired. Along came his letter with the ticket to Montreal and a heartfelt plea -
“Wish you were here.” And, like many young women, I finally got what I asked for and it wasn’t what I wanted.
Anyway, Montreal is Montreal and I thought it would make a nice change for him to pitch me for a bit and I could ditch him. So off I went on my post romantic adventure. I only remember two things: His very satisfying suffering that I was no longer ‘his’ and the feel of a slice of artichoke in my mouth – leaves, hairy stuff, prickles and all. I instantly knew I had made a gaff – or how could artichokes be so popular? But there I was being all haughty and cool with my new found power of resistance and I had a mouthful of sharp cardboard- with hairs! It wasn’t a moment to laugh off my own silliness – a very useful trait I have since developed. I can’t honestly remember how I discretely disposed of the mess in my mouth – but I do recall the lesson: Swallow the good stuff and spit out the rest.
All too often we bite off something in a job, relationship or other commitment and it doesn’t feel so good. But this much I will guarantee – you are being called to learn something about yourself. If you are cheated – you can learn discernment. If you are betrayed you can learn forgiveness. If you have been humiliated, you can learn courage. Strengthening character is like any muscle. You have to hit the weights until you get strong.
Fitness clubs have the greatest income from unused memberships. It is not human nature to seek out the difficult and discipline ourselves. We only get ‘religion’ when we’ve gone too far. The dress doesn’t fit and the party is next week or we have a heart attack. Life in it’s natural yearning and push to higher evolution, provides the impetus for we humans who would avoid discomfort. We could develop strength, courage, peace, happiness, health and vitality by choice – many do – but more don’t. Life crooks its finger and beckon to us. We, in response say, “Who me?” and look over our shoulder. “Yes,” Life says, “it is time to learn courage – you will need it later”, and sends a bully to kick sand in your face – a bully, a boss, a wife – someone for you to stand and face in your own goodness and power.
There is a lovely children’s story by Neale Donald Walsch, and I paraphrase like mad, but it goes something like this: A little soul had never been to Earth and was hearing stories about the delight of forgiveness.
“God! I want to learn forgiveness! Can I go? Pleeeease?”
“Okay” said God “but you can’t go alone”.
“I’ll go with Little Soul”, said L.S.’s best friend.
“Goody!” said L.S.
“But you know, Little Soul” said Best Friend, “When we get there I will have to do something to you for you to forgive. When I do – just remember who I am.”
I love this story because it so simply illustrates that people and circumstances in our lives help us to be all that we can be. We all are born with our unique and fabulous mix of talents, competencies and desires. Our potential is boundless and only diminished by the limitations of our own mind and our latent abilities, talents and strengths. So many whisperings by teachers, parents, and sadly our religions form our expectations long before we are of a discerning age. As we grow we grow according to the expectation of others. Sometimes – often – we are unaware of the underlying sabotaging script to our own powerful potential.
That is when Life’s steps in. List all the qualities of life you think are desirable. Happiness is top on my list because it means all else is in harmony. I don’t mean manic happiness as in “I laugh in the face of danger!” but a ‘default’ setting to happiness that ensures that I can ride the waves of joy and sorrow with equal grace. So what are the qualities you desire most to form your life experience? Courage? Creativity? Vitality? Peace? Bliss? Now think on the various circumstances and experiences of your life and see how each might have offered you an opportunity to achieve a measure of those values.
This is not the same as getting slugged in the head and deciding not to venture into that neighbourhood at night. It is not about taking the tough stuff on the chin and sighing in resignation saying, “I know there is a lesson in this for me.” It’s not Life saying “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!” It is not about punishment in any way. It is all about freedom.
Freedom to be exactly who you are in all your creative abandon and joyful expression – as a dancer, an artist, a salesperson, a parent or a bank manager! If you are just exactly who you are – you can never get it wrong! No one can criticize or judge you because you are being a perfect expression of your whole potential. Sometimes we hang onto relationships, jobs or possessions because we have a misguided notion that to let go is failure. But sometimes those things have fulfilled their purpose in our lives and can be discarded.
The beginning of wisdom and self actualization is to get this. It helps you understand the notion that we are to see the divine in all people. Seeing the divine doesn’t mean a rapist isn’t a rapist – really. It means that there is a deeper soul agreement at work that is moving toward consciousness and evolution. If you balk at the example of rapist, just remember that Life as creator is eternal and infinite. There is no death – it only exists on the physical plane. There is nothing that can truly harm the soul. “No fire can burn it. No water can wet it.” Life will use even death to open our eyes to the beauty of our full human potential.
When you know this you will have a very different perspective of a difficult passage or person. What part of yourself is better for this experience? Which of the qualities that you most desire are closer to you now? Now the important part is to take the gem and drop the painful experience. You may never forget it, but it no longer has an emotional hook to trip you up. Continuing to be outraged by a painful betrayal is to stay heavily attached to something that has outlived it use to you. Keep the lesson of discernment, trust in your own intuition (that likely warned you but you didn’t listen), and the courage to call it like it is.
The emotions of the hairy prickly stuff of Life experience are: resentment, guilt, fear, anger, rage, depression, trepidation, self consciousness, doubt and anxiety. Do you really want to carry these heavy feelings with you of a day? Are these the energies that you want attracting circumstances and people into your life? It’s not tough to let these lower energies go. The way is simple: you can’t focus on two things at the same time. Be conscious of your thoughts and choose to enjoy the gem. It’s valuable and you earned it! Then you can enjoy the lovely, fleshy, nutty green joy of eating artichokes and toss the hairy bits and prickles in the compost heap – they’re just fertilizer!
Here is the wonderful book The Little Soul and the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch, the amazing author of Conversations With God. It’s a simple story with a power packed message. It is wisdom that we are never too old to learn. This beautiful and artistic book is a lovely way to reinforce your teaching of higher values with your little ones and to share skills to manage Life’s challenges. My children are grown up, but I keep beautiful books and toys for little visitors.
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