Can you think of an experience in your life that at the time you were going through it, you saw no light at the end of the tunnel? In the moment it was awful but in hindsight, it was pivotal and helped you grow as a person.
I had the realization lately that things in my life happen for a reason and for my greatest benefit. When I look back, I see how once seemingly bad times in my life actually led me to decisions that served me greatly.
My first serious relationship turned into a long distance relationship when my girlfriend went away to college. While we were still dating, unbeknownst to me, she met and started a relationship with someone else. I was mortified. I couldn’t eat and laid in bed for days watching the movie ‘Ray’, a rather depressing movie, on repeat.
After two weeks of sulking, my dad suggested that I learn to meditate. I felt like I had hit my emotional rock bottom and had no reason or energy to protest. I was also fortunate that he is a Transcendental Meditation (TM) instructor. Learning TM was the beginning of the most significant phase in my life. I may have never have taken that path had it not been for the infidelity and breakup.
Sometimes we have to be brought to our lowest point to make choices that we wouldn’t have made otherwise.
I’ve realized that all experiences, both good and bad, are part of my path for a reason and contain teachable moments that help me grow towards my best self. Now, rather than fretting when something challenging comes my way, I remind myself to pay attention in the moment. What is this moment trying to teach me? How will this serve me?
Applying this way of thinking throughout my day to day life brings me a huge feeling of relief and a sense of peace. Even if I can't see the good in present suffering, I have faith that all things are working for good.
I am now open to whatever comes my way and don’t fight those things that bring momentary unhappiness. I simply say to myself, “All things are happening for my highest good no matter how I feel right now” and I look for the life lessons. It's not a magic bullet. I still at times feel an initial sense of frustration or worry at not knowing how things are going to work out. But I’ve noticed that the harder the challenge, the bigger the payoff when I come out the other end.
Sometimes I’ll come up with examples of how things that initially seem like they’re going “wrong” may be helping me. For example, if I’m impatiently stuck behind a slow car in traffic I might think to myself that maybe this slow driver is helping me avoid an accident. Maybe this slow driver is reminding me to slow down in general. I change that moment of frustration into something positive that I can then feel grateful for.
If a restaurant messes up my order and gives me something different I might think to myself 'maybe that’s just what my body needs at this moment' or maybe it will help me try something new that I’ll end up loving. I then practice gratitude on the heels of that. These sound like small things but these ‘small things’ add up to make the big part of our lives. The experience is something I have no control over but I can control how I respond and interpret it. Those thoughts are directly connected to my mood and feelings which in turn gauge how I act towards myself and others.
This also works for me on the big changes in life. When I lost my full-time job I thought, “Thank you for helping to move me in the direction of something that is more in line with what I love to do.” When my long-term romantic relationship ended I thought, “There must be a relationship that is beyond what I can imagine at this moment or maybe I need some time by myself to figure out who I am as an individual.”
There are inevitably times when I have trouble seeing the silver lining. In those times what I have to lean on is the track record of all those time seemingly negative circumstances ended up being the pivot point in my life. When I have no idea how anything could possibly be helping me I remind myself how all things work for good. I use those instances as an opportunity to practice faith, courage, or forgiveness. This practice has led to no longer seeing myself as a victim but as someone who is loved and faithful to the path my life is on, wherever that takes me.
If you have any similar practices or experiences or any thoughts on this topic in general I’d love to hear them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!