Life Is A Process, Not An Event
“I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way. The challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our soul’s growth.”—Marianne Williamson
I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have any fears, do you? Knowing this, it begs asking: What are your predominant fears? Are you aware of them? In order to live without fear, we must trust whatever outcome arises in life is perfectly orchestrated for our highest good. I’m reminded of a delightful tale by the late spiritual teacher and psychotherapist Anthony de Mello who explains that while fear protects us, it also keeps us trapped and insecure: “How shall I rid myself of fear?” “How can you rid yourself of what you cling to?” “You mean I actually cling to my fears? I disagree.” “Consider what your fear protects you from and you will agree! And you will see your folly.”
Most people’s fears relate to: financial matters, safety and security, relationships or career. It is natural to entertain these fears, though when they impose on our way of life, we are at the mercy of succumbing to them. This is when we stop living because we are being dictated by our fears. Allow me to explain what I mean, since it may be misunderstood. Everything that happens to us has a larger purpose in our life. I am not invoking God, nor religion but suggesting a greater plan is in order which may not be apparent at the time of the event. If we look back on our life, we would notice that every event comes together to create the rich tapestry of our life’s narrative. Because life is being experienced by us, it may feel as though our challenges are permanent. However, we’re not seeing the entire picture unfold because we’re absorbed in the drama and miss the opportunity to see how it can lead to something greater.
Are you comfortable with this so far? I hope so, because it’s worth acknowledging that life is a process, not an event. Now, sometimes horrific accidents occur where people lose loved ones and we might ask how this is a perfect outcome. That is, how is the loss of someone to illness, especially a young child considered a perfect outcome? These are reasonable questions that have plagued mankind for centuries. I don’t know why these events occur and why some people survive and others don’t. This dilemma has perplexed philosophers for ages and it’s widely debated whether there’s an all-powerful and all seeing source presiding over our lives. For now, let’s consider outcomes not as catastrophic, such as being passed over for a job promotion or your beloved no longer wanting to marry you. In these instances, there may be more that develops to unravel the story. Namely, something good can arise out of a seemingly undesirable situation if we are attentive and not consider the worst scenario.
I’ve witnessed this in my life and those I’ve coached over the years. Unfortunate or unforeseen events may turn out to be a wonderful blessing if we are patient and wait for the picture to unravel. For example, I recall working with a client whose fiancée decided to call off their wedding at the last minute after dating for years. The experience was heartbreaking since he never expected it, especially from his betrothed. After he recovered from the tragedy, he moved abroad for work where he enjoyed a wonderful time in his new surroundings. He met a beautiful woman and dated for a while before proposing to her and married soon after. He later mentioned to me that his previous breakup turned out to be the best thing to happen because it forced him to move to a foreign country and meet what he described as the love of his life. Had he been caught up in a destructive pattern of self-pity, he would have never taken the chance and met his wife.
How about you, have you had similar experiences in your own life? Whilst it may not be relationship related, think about those experiences where it seemed hopeless, yet as time passed, it turned out to be the best thing to happen. To live without fear we ought to trust that every outcome serves a greater purpose in our life. Sometimes the answer may not come immediately because it involves going on a journey to discover it. It is why I am drawn to the message by the Toltec author Don Miguel Ruiz who writes in The Three Questions: How to Discover and Master the Power Within You how our irrational fears have a way of shaping our reality if we succumb to them: “Fear has had a big effect on the way we learned to view the world. Physical fear is natural and essential to our survival, but it’s important to remember that irrational fear is not. It is irrational to be afraid of what doesn’t exist. In fact, it can cause actual harm. And yet we’ve learned to let irrational fear shape our reality. We’ve learned to react emotionally in ways that other people do and to fear what we only imagine.”
Whilst it is difficult to silence our fears, we can do the next best thing as author Susan Jeffers explains in her popular book: Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. Embrace our fears and take action knowing whatever outcome transpires, it is perfectly arranged for our greater good. We acknowledge whatever unfolds, we will be okay because we have survived every experience up till now. Perhaps life isn’t so much about abandoning our fears but learning to embrace them in order to live boldly. It is like living with anxiety: one never completely overcomes it but learns to turn down the volume. So, if we consider what our fears are protecting us from, as Anthony de Mello’s tale suggests, we realise our thoughts are the cause of our problems, not the events themselves. And this is within our power to revoke.