Friday, October 4, 2013

Pain transformed

As you look back over your life so far, would you like to erase all the hurt, pain and bad times?

Mark Nepo says in his The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have: "From broken marriages, to losing a rib to cancer, to being laid off after eighteen years of teaching, there has always been a gift waiting once the ache and fear and grief have settled." He adds, however, that it isn't the disease or injustice itself that's a blessing. It's more that such injuries open us to new things.

I would agree with Nepo. I would also qualify it by saying I can only speak for myself. Some people have experienced unspeakable horrors and may never see a gift waiting on the other side. I have visited both the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and I have interviewed Liberians about the atrocities they endured during their civil war in the 1990s. I know there are experiences from which people may never come back. Having said that, most of us don't have experiences quite that traumatic.

As I look back at my own experiences, including a divorce and being Reduced In Force after 22 years on the job as well as other assorted deaths and relationship losses, I know that those things have made me who I am today. The pain was transformed into wisdom and a deeper appreciation for life. For example, as I've said in previous blogs and in my monthly ezines, losing my job led to a new and exciting career that I hadn't imagined. All of my painful experiences have eventually led to new insights and new dreams and have taken me to deeper  places on my journey.

The transformation didn't occur overnight, though. First came the anger and sadness—the grieving part. Then came the letting go process, and it is a process, definitely not a once-and-done thing. Then, finally, new dreams, new wisdom—the gift of transformation unfolding. And in each of those stages, fear showed up needing to be faced. It's all part of life's journey, isn't it? Transformation itself is a process. Think of the caterpillar/cocoon/butterfly process and draw hope from that. Picture yourself as that beautiful butterfly soaring among the flowers where once you crawled along with a much smaller view of the world!

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