In 2004, I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the first time, along with 30 other world leaders in the peace movement at Pope John Paul’s summer residence in Castelgondolfo, Italy for a 5-day conference called: “The Synthesis Dialogues.” I was honored to be one of the 30 in attendance and grateful for the 2 full days with His Holiness The Dalai Lama as he shared tokens of his wisdom. I took 9 pages of notes which I later presented in a talk. (Here is the link to it if you are interested in hearing more!)
One of the pearls he shared was from the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. They believe that we attract everything that happens to us. I had a hard time swallowing this belief: “Did I attract the murder of my son?” was the first question I asked myself as I was navigating the wake of his loss to murder and it is clearly one of the more challenging events in my life. Of course, no parent would “attract” the death of their child. But I was perplexed by this concept and wanted to know how I could create more peace in my heart around the loss of Tariq, so I asked the question to my mentors.
The answer I received was, “Before you or your son were born you had an agreement that he will come to you in this lifetime and tragically die at age 20 in a random act of violence. In every lifetime you have lessons to learn to help you evolve spiritually and strengthen your resilience. One of your lessons in this life was forgiveness. God gave us free will—so you had to choose between revenge and forgiveness. You made the right choice to forgive your son’s murderer so in your next lifetime you do NOT have to lose a son.”
But how do you take the hardships in your life that make you want to crumble and turn them into your strong resilience? How do you move from being spiritually fragile to being spiritually resilient?
First, while this might sound like an evolved view, the important takeaway is that spiritually resilient people understand that heartbreak and loss are integral parts of the universe’s benevolent unfolding. These “hits” are as necessary to the wholeness of life as are blessings. Spiritually fragile people are often shocked and resentful when life disappoints them. But expecting to go through life without facing serious hurdles or heartbreaks is like trying to play football and not get tackled—it ain’t happening! Spiritually resilient people expect to take serious hits and believe that these lessons are essential to a purposeful life.
Secondly, most people are so caught up in the busyness of life that they do not often stop and think about the PURPOSE of life. When we cannot find meaning in what is happening to us, it is easy to slip into despair when we are faced with a challenge. Dr. Carter-Scott, author of If Life is a Game, These are the Rules,
believes that we will each be presented with lessons that are custom-designed for us and designed to teach us what we need to learn next. She teaches lessons that often come in form of painful events or situations.
Experiment for yourself: find a quiet contemplative place and focus on the lessons you have learned from your hard hits. Use a journal and start with this prompt “The hits I have taken are connected to my life’s purpose because…”
Thirdly, relationships serve many purposes in our lives, they comfort us, inspire us, challenge us, and help us accomplish things we could not do on our own. Other people are always at the heart of our most heartbreaking hits and our greatest happiness. Remember the reason for relationships is that they provide the fuel for the adversity that forges our finest selves. From Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the other.”
Try another experiment, make a list of the “hits” you have taken that have impacted you the most. Think about each of these hits and decide if a relationship is at the heart of the matter—do not discount the relationship you have with YOURSELF. What did your time and relationship with these people teach you about yourself? As Helen Keller taught us “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Join me in my upcoming conference
to unpack this concept more, receive a copy of my book, and become more spiritually resilient as you create new friendships and connect personally with me this spring. (More detail below in the Question of the Month and Events section).
Peace and many blessings on your journey forward,