If, since his inception, either by divine intervention or by a fluke of the universe, man’s foremost question was, “who am I?” followed closely by, “what the hell am I doing here?” a third question humans frequently ask is, “why me?” “Why me?” is not an inquiry we typically make under positive circumstances such as, “why did I win the lottery?” or, “why did I get promoted?” We typically raise that question when shitty things happen to us such as, “why did this piece of fallen satellite came crashing down on my new car?” or, with lesser humor, “why did I develop cancer?”
Through a recent spiritual experience I took part of, my dear friend Ran (aka Kai,) suggested that when encountering various situations we often perceive as “good” or “bad,” the question one should raise is, “what is the meaning of this?” It is not a foreign idea to me yet there is a fundamental difference in the essence of the question: in the past, when I presented that riddle to my mind, a reply was promptly received from the rational part of my brain. Often the answer was preachy and with an element of guilt. Instead, I now offer the question to, for a lack of a better word, the Universe. Actually, since I do not subscribe much to the New Age approach of the Universe, let me rephrase: I present the question to The Way (as in Taoism,) which is to say, some entity that is at the heart of every living being, as well as inanimate objects. Doing this, one must remain attentive as, soon after the question is raised, the logical mind will command a reply. It is typically not the answer we seek. Once discarded, another response may emerge, occasionally in concert with the rational reply but mostly not so. One test for such an answer is that it should not include the idea of good and bad. Whatever the occurrence that prompt the question, it happened because I had something to learn from it. At times it will be a deep insight, at other times it may be a simple observation.
If the above sounds confusing, a couple of examples are in order. I’ll start with a simple illustration.
At current, I am visiting San Diego. This morning I was heading for a certain restaurant recommended by my friend for breakfast. I got the name incorrectly and thus my GPS took me to another place. Under regular circumstances I would have swore, blame the Universe, my GPS, and possibly my friend, all in that order. I was very hungry and wanted to find the place and eat. In a whining voice I would have pleaded, “Why me?” But instead I asked, “What is the meaning of this?” My logical mind quickly volunteered an educated guess – “it is so you learn to ask for better directions next time.” Fair enough but not good enough. There was a judgment in the answer, thus disclosing its inauthenticity. When I let go of that reply, an awareness grew in me and suggested: look around, it said, what do you see? “Well,” I answered, puzzled at first, “I see the ocean.” Pause, “Oh…” I continued, “I get it. I didn’t realize how close to the sea my friend lived. Now that I know, I would plan on coming here later this afternoon and take my walk along the beach at sunset.” Anything else? the awareness inquired. Turning my head to the other side of the road, I noticed a place called Lotus Cafe, an eatery; not the one I was looking for but another that my friend mentioned as a coffee shop I may enjoy. By “mistake” I found it. Sure enough I visited both places later that day. Was it just a happy accident? Maybe. Maybe most of our mishaps can be attributed to happy accidents, even the ones we don’t much view as “happy.”
What is the meaning of this? quickly became something I started asking just about anything. The following is a more involved example. I have been with my wife for the past thirty years. Some people who know us, raise an eyebrow – how did we survive each other for so long? I turned that question to the ‘force.’ “What is the meaning of my long-lasting relationship with my wife?” I’ve recently asked in sincerity. The logical part of my mind wanted to answer, along the lines of the Buddhistic First Noble Truth, “suffering,” but I didn’t listen. (Okay, Yael – that is my wife’s name – only joking as I know you will be reading this… 😉
The answer that came through listening to the awareness was multifold: I grew up to parents who are of the Holocaust generation. They loved me, but open affection was not something that generation felt comfortable expressing. Furthermore, I was raised in Israel at a time when “real men” were not expected to show emotions. My wife taught me how to express love – maybe not enough by her standards, but extensively more than I used to. If it wasn’t for her I would have possibly remained locked up in my introversion.
Also, she and I are different in many ways, including but not limited to, approach to time planning, perspective about what makes successful relationships, and, not least of which, some facets of parenting. By living with someone who is different than me, I am constantly being challenged, and rarely allowed a stay in my comfort zone. Granted, it is not easy and often tensions rise high, but that taught me also to negotiate, compromise, pick my battles, be more tolerant, and, as difficult as this may be, accept that we are different, and that it is not my role to change her if she doesn’t wish to change. Would have I chosen to live this life with her thirty years ago, knowing all that I know today? I am not sure. Maybe. Possibly. Was this what I needed to experience so that I can grow into who I am today? Very likely so. The Way had me receive her, and she me, because, in the long run, as difficult as this sometimes is, we are correct for each other; not good, not bad, but fitting.
Earlier this morning I went to a local yoga class. The instructor shared with us that a few years ago, while hiking, she had contracted Lyme disease. She suffered a lot of pain, physical and emotional, and was confined to her bed for two years. She is still challenged daily by her health. Yet, she said, there was also a gift. She realized that this is all a lesson; teaching her patience and inner growth, instructing her spirit to face the challenge with love, rather than fight it with force.
There is no good, nor bad; there is only what we make out our life lessons to be.
Learned from: my experience with The Way, awareness, and a suggestion from a dear friend.