Ever sit back and appreciate how one unfortunate experience, that you may have been really bummed about at the time, led to something spectacular that you never would have dreamt-up on your own? How brilliant life is, how friendly the universe can be, how silver linings are available to us whenever that's where we choose to focus our attention?
When life is difficult, we can choose to make up that life dislikes us, that God or our parents abandoned us, that we aren't gifted or deserving or good looking enough.
I've done all of that before. And it hasn't worked so well.
What has worked well is leaning on a slice of wisdom I believe in: It's all in perfect order. In my core, I know that's true, even with the horrific pain life can sometimes present. When I ask myself, "How is this perfect?" in the face of a struggle, I can literally feel a layer of difficulty dissolving. And if I continue asking, leaning into those silver linings -- How is this perfect? -- eventually all the layers of difficulty disappear.
When a butterfly landed next to my foot after an outdoor massage last summer, I made up that life is lovely. Nothing sophisticated, just a simple sense of how generous beauty can be.
Usually for me it takes being past a certain struggle, a month or even a year, to see what purpose that struggle had. And I "made up" that purpose, because it's all made up. (For kicks, check out this company named It's All Made Up, Inc.). As my long time spiritual mentor and friend Tom has shared many times, we give things the meaning they have for us.
In the past year of experiencing difficulty in the work arena, feeling confused about why clients weren't landing as often as I wanted them to, I have often chosen to feel disappointed. When that grew stale, I finally accepted that I am responsible for my thoughts, and for shifting my experience. Though we can turn to people who call themselves healers, we are the only ones capable of "healing" ourselves, and all we really heal is our thoughts.
Once we take the power back, choosing to empower ourselves instead of giving power to external circumstances, silver linings can start shining brightly. Some of the silver linings I've discovered in the presence of recent struggles are: I'm writing more; I'm creating greater integrity in my relationship with money; I'm doing what 100s of parents have advised me to do, and reveling in my daughter's earliest years by spending every day with her... ("Enjoy every minute; childhood flies by fast.")
And to top it all off, my husband and I have had few to no (gosh have we had any?) arguments in our almost 4 years together. We certainly have disagreements here and there but the rock-solidness of our partnership has stood super, super strong amidst considerable periods of challenge. How's that for a silver lining?
Whatever the struggle you may be facing -- and most people face struggles right now -- even when you can't see them, there are countless silver linings. Giant ones, tiny ones. What beautiful gifts are you receiving as the bumps bump along? What generosity has life spilled upon your lap even while you dance in your difficulty?
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.