I have come to believe that there is a gift in every event, every encounter, and every difficulty. Is this true? No, but it’s an example of how I choose to make meaning and it serves me really well.
Some times I have trouble seeing the gift, but if I’m willing to look for the gift each time I bump into a troublesome moment, I can change my experience radically. And this is the point of Live Conscious—to shift my reality. So here’s an example of how I did so.
Years ago I was driving to see my therapist who lived 40 minutes north of my house. I’d been seeing him periodically and felt my life had been remarkably and positively altered by his guidance.
I found the long drive useful, as it gave me time to reflect on my life and what I needed to work on. But this time I perceived nothing difficult happening in my life. Everything was going quite smoothly. I couldn’t think of one single thing important enough to talk about.
Something “horrible” happened.
As I rounded a curve, I saw a car up ahead swerve rapidly. One of the doors opened and a little dog was shoved out, and the car kept driving.
The poor dog, completely disoriented, raced after the car as it sped off, and was immediately run over by an oncoming truck.
I pulled over to the side of the road, shocked by what I had just witnessed and gathered my wits. After checking the road for any oncoming traffic I stepped out of my car to tend to the dog who was lying in the middle of the road, howling in agony. As I got closer I could see he was paralyzed, unable to move from the waist down.
I gently picked him up and carried him to the side of the road. I sat down with him in my lap and wrapped my arms around him, holding his head in my hand. I broke my heart with his howls and cries and I knew his injuries were so serious there was nothing I could do to save him.
What I did do was sing him a song. I sang “Amazing Grace.” And within a moment, he stopped crying and looked up at me, seemingly soothed by the song. Within a few more minutes he closed his eyes and I began to feel an intense vibration traveling up his spine and out into my hand that was holding his head.
I sang and wept and stayed with him while cars sped swiftly past us, the drivers unaware of our intimate moment. When I was certain he had died, I laid him gently in a safe place by the side of the road, planning to return to him later after my therapy appointment. I walked to my car, shaken and deeply touched by this intimate moment with this sweet, likely abused, little creature.
As it turns out, I had plenty to work on that day. I arrived for my therapy appointment in tears, still trembling physically from the encounter. My heart was ripped wide open. While I sobbed, my therapist helped me recognize the gifts to be found in this experience.
What were the gifts?
- I learned about my own willingness to embrace another being in violent pain.
- I learned I could be helpful even in a hopeless situation.
- I learned that our energy travels somewhere else when we leave our bodies.
The biggest gift I gave myself that day was being able to choose the meaning I made of the situation. And when I say, “choose the meaning,” I don’t mean simply sugar coating a difficult situation. I didn’t deny my feelings. I felt myself and my raw emotions more intensely than ever. I raged toward people who could be so cruel and I saddened myself realizing that some people live with such ignorance.
I could have carried away nothing but my rage and sadness. I could have victimized myself with my helplessness. I could have focused on the unfairness.
But I didn’t. I made meaning of what happened by appreciating myself and my capacity to be present and loving while in the midst of great suffering. I learned I could be helpful even in a hopeless situation.
Consciously choosing how we make meaning of each event in life is one of the tools we get from living in a Live Conscious orientation. We also learn how to be in the moment—even a painful one, like being present and connecting with a dying dog on the side of a road on a day I had nothing important to work on. That was truly a gift.