Gift or a Teacher?

“The principle thing is to understand there is no safety or security.”
—Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Every moment, every person, every experience is a gift or a teacher, often both. Including all the experiences and feelings we reject.

Why did I write Pivot? Because during my lowest moments—and for the first 30 years of my life if I’m being honest—I was not feeling very resilient. I was easily overcome by worry, sadness and angst. During the lowest of the low, my mental gymnastics and usual tricks stopped working.

I had to open up to a more spiritual side to survive. In doing that, I became obsessed with studying uncertainty, insecurity, and how to find grounding in a world of chaos and constant change.

Some moments are pure unfettered gifts: connecting with someone new who you feel like you’ve known your whole life, sipping a piña colada with toes buried in white sand at sunset, dancing until sunrise, reading a book or listening to music that vibrates with your soul, the peace of savasana at the end of a sweaty yoga class, throwing yourself into the scrum and hustle and bustle of a big city.

In other moments we may feel anxious, worried, unsure, insecure, angry, hurt, regretful, scared, or self-conscious—the list of ways we suffer goes on. How can you live with these? How can you take your precious time and brain space back? Meditation and self-compassion are two foundational elements, but I usually need a more-true-than-fear reminder to lean on.

Here is my strategy (whenever I remember . . . and forgetting is part of the process): I see everything—every feeling and every person—as a teacher. In doing that, I transform the teachers into gifts. I can welcome the wisdom of all experiences and all people. I trust that even what I reject has meaning if I am willing to breathe, relax and seek it.

I believe in a benevolent universe. I believe in karma and the golden rule. I believe NOT in asking for what I want, but for my life events to unfold for the highest good for all involved.

One of the questions I ask myself and coaching clients often:

“How is this the perfect lesson, at the perfect time, for my highest evolution and growth?”

And another exercise: imagine you are the main character of a movie on an epic hero’s journey:

Why this scene? What is your character meant to learn and do differently? What is waiting for you on the other side?

Gifts in the garbage. Blessings in disguise. The “We’ll See” Zen parable. I love studying these concepts. I love hearing stories from people about events that seemed unwelcome at the time, but later turned out to be the catalyst for growth that they hardly realized they needed, or had the courage to put into action proactively.

From Living Beautifully with Uncertainty of Change, by Pema Chödron:

“The truth is that we’re always in some kind of in-between state, always in process. We never fully arrive. When we’re present with the dynamic quality of our lives, we’re also present with impermanence, uncertainty, and change. If we can stay present, then we might finally get that there’s no security or certainty in the objects of our pleasure or the objects of our pain, no security or certainty in winning or losing, in compliments or criticism, in good reputation or bad—no security or certainty ever in anything that’s fleeting, that’s subject to change.”

The security is in the in-between; in accepting every experience as a gift and/or teacher.

Although we may sometimes swing to extremes—clinging to gifts or rejecting truths in teachers—there is ultimately only one appropriate response for both: thank you.