When you stop naming or labeling negative situations, life makes more sense

Look for the gifts and the lessons

Do you think of a current negative situation that you are struggling with? It can be related to a relationship, finances, health, or something close and personal to you. I’m not discounting the strength of your emotions, but I invite you to resist labeling the situation negative for now. Having endured countless challenges over the years, what seemed like a negative experience turned out to be the biggest contribution to my personal growth. Later, when the puzzle pieces came together, I could see how things were working perfectly for my highest good.

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people sometimes. For example, the beloved husband or wife tragically struck by a drunk driver is paralyzed for life. The elderly couple who lose their life savings to an unscrupulous investor. The only child to succumb to cancer. I’m just as curious as you are why these things happen, but I’ve found there’s no point in trying to figure it out. Instead, we must see how these experiences can enhance our growth. I believe that there is a God, not a religious God represented by the dominant religion, but a universal and creative energy field that functions as God. This infinite field is contained within everything in the universe. You may want to call it source, universe, or nothing at all, that’s fine, but it helps to believe in a greater force co-creating our life deep down inside.

I mention this because with the death of my father and my illness two decades ago; I believe that this energy field is present in every experience, be it good or bad. When we label an experience as negative, we are taking a snapshot of what is happening at that moment. We have no idea what will follow or if things will get better. For example, if you get a speeding ticket, it makes sense to label the experience negative. But what if there is a bigger reason for getting the speeding ticket that becomes clearer later on? British writer Alan Watts wrote: “The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it is really impossible to know whether everything that happens in it is good or bad.”

This idea is further illustrated in the story of the Chinese farmer: Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That night, his neighbors came over to commiserate. They said, “We are sorry to hear that his horse has run away. This is very unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing with it seven wild horses and in the evening the neighbors came back and said, “Oh, lucky you. What a great turn of events. Now you have eight horses!” The farmer exclaimed again, “Perhaps.” The next day his son tried to break one of the horses and while he was riding it he was thrown and broke his leg. Then the neighbors said, “Oh my God, that’s too bad,” and the farmer replied again, “Maybe.” The next day, the recruiting officers came to recruit people for the army and rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Once again, the neighbors came up and said, “Not great!” Once again, he said, “Maybe.”

Life is a self-organizing system

The bottom line, as Alan Watts says, is that nature is an integrated process of immense complexity and we can’t know if something is good or bad until the picture is complete. Even the events that occur in this life, which we consider negative, could be useful for the next generation. This is why we should not label experiences as negative, but look for the lessons and growth within those experiences. Are you comfortable with this idea so far? I hope you are open to the idea that life is conspiring for you, even though it may not seem like it at times. I am not asking you to change your mind nor am I forcing you to adopt a belief that you are not comfortable with. I simply invite you to immerse yourself in the possibility that life, the universe, the source, God or whatever you call it, is supporting you beyond the realm of possibility.

Life can be complex as well as simple, and it is difficult to know how to live according to this understanding. But we must resist naming and labeling situations as negative because we set ourselves up for disappointment. We create the perception that life is against us, when in fact, life flows through us. It requires stepping away from the drama and looking for the important lessons and growth contained in our experiences. So, I ask you: can you give yourself the gift of looking at your current misfortune, through the lens of growth? Are you willing to stop labeling situations as negative and ask yourself, “What does most of me need to learn from this experience?” Ask yourself, “Why is this experience coming to me, and who do I need to become to get through it?”

Ultimately, we can choose to see our experiences as good or bad, but that is a limiting view. Because life is a self-organizing system, we need to relax knowing that things will often work themselves out with little interference on our part.. If we add a limiting belief to what is happening, we add more crap to a dirty lens. But if we consider that although things seem unpleasant now, we are willing to look for the lessons and change our perception of what is happening. Ask life to show you why this experience is happening and who you will become because of it. Only then will you transcend any negative situation and life will have more meaning.

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