|'We Are Given What We Need''5.14X5.12 pencil crayon and ink on bristol boardPrints and original available|
"Our suffering doesn't make us special."
- Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel
I spent some time contemplating the phrase 'Everything happens for a reason'. I've written about this before but with this Dharma piece and the wording I chose to accompany the Kapala I drew, I wanted to go deeper.
I much prefer 'Everything happens' and was once explaining my thoughts around this to a friend. I was giving examples of how the idea of having a 'reason' implies some sense of pre-determination or fate. Because the future really is unwritten and we have no idea what might happen next, it's a phrase that simply doesn't fit with reality. Or, if we are to presume that somehow things are predetermined, it implies reason to atrocities.
I feel it would be immensely unhelpful to tell someone who was raped or who lost their family in a bombing that 'everything happens for a reason.' Giving reason to such pain feels unreasonable and can also lead people into spirals of guilt or shame - like they brought something on themselves or somehow deserved what happened.
My friend, who was listening very thoughtfully through all this, then said, "How about, everything happens and the meaning it has is all in how you work with it?"
I loved this and immediately related it to something my psychologist has often said, which is that life is not out to get us and we are never given more than we can handle. Life is perfect this way. And perfection doesn't mean without flaws.
We are given a lifetime of experiences and as sentient beings we are also given the wonderful tool of our mind to worth with. Any experience we have is an opportunity, whether we label it positive or negative or neutral. How we work with life is the choice we have. We can choose to shut down, to feel victimized by it and go numb to it, or we can choose to be curious about it, to engage with it - even to embrace it.
Life is a perfect teacher.