This weekend, I lost a very young beloved friend, way too early. And the spiritual retreat center where I have sought solace, wisdom, healing, and guidance for many years just burned to the ground in water-parched California. When tragedies pile on top of each other, it’s natural for us to seek meaning and desperately try to find answers to “Why?”
There's a philosophy in spiritual circles that everything that happens in our lives — the blissful things and the horrid things — all happen with a purpose. They say that everything in your life, you create. The good, the bad, the ugly — it’s all up to you.
This teaching suggests that everything reflected in our lives is the result of our desires (conscious or unconscious). When things aren't going our way, it's because the blueprint of the subconscious actually desires the very thing we think we don't want.
In other words, we may think we want to meet the love of our life, or we may hope to have the disease cured, but if someone were to "read" the subconscious mind, they'd discover that on a deep level, we’re actually terrified of falling in love because of a past heartbreak, or the disease is meeting some core need for rest or freedom from a toxic job.
“Wait!” you say. “But I really DO want to find The One!” Are you suggesting that I really don't want a relationship?
Yes, and no. Those who promote this viewpoint are not suggesting that you consciously want a crappy love life. They’re saying you subconsciously want to avoid a relationship, and because your subconscious is in charge 95 percent of the time, this will sabotage the very thing your conscious mind wants to create.
The good news is that if this is true and everything in our reality is directly related to our subconscious blueprint, then we are not victims! We are empowered!
If we are sick, or broke, or heartbroken, then we should be able to simply change the blueprint by reprogramming the conscious and subconscious mind, something we are increasingly able to do through energy psychology techniques.
I've witnessed and personally experienced seemingly miraculous outcomes from those who employ these techniques in combatting cancer or facing money issues or making a dream come true. So that seems kind of awesome. Heal the subconscious blueprint, and voilà! You meet the love of your life. The cancer disappears. Your business takes off.
If this is the case, we should always be able to control outcomes in our lives and get what we want. The message is "You can have the perfect life! Whatever you desire, you can have — as long as you do more. Try harder. If you're not getting everything you want, it's all your fault ... and you can change it."
But then this sounds like yet another grasping strategy for how to get what the ego wants, a spiritual spin on how to control the Universe. This viewpoint also strikes me as cruel.
The friend who just died left behind his 30-something widow, who has been his beloved for more than a decade. Does this mean she subconsciously wanted to lose her husband? Or that he unwittingly had a death wish? Did the residents of the spiritual retreat center subconsciously choose to attract a wildfire to their collective home?
Such a viewpoint doesn't feel benevolent or loving to me, not one bit. And it seems arrogant to suggest we have any clue how the spiritual mysteries of the Universe work. Plus, how can we claim to be spiritual if we're not deeply rooted in compassion, able to be with someone's suffering as a source of comfort, especially when we are scared, hurting, grieving, and confused about why painful things happen?
I certainly can't claim to know how to explain the cause and effect of 3-D reality.
What if we're all here for some unspecified purpose, and our souls are here to learn God-knows-what, and the Universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings ... but those blessings may not be wrapped up in nice neat little packages?
What if our wishes and desires are duly noted, but in some unseen realm, our souls are in cahoots with a wise, loving Universal Intelligence that participates in orchestrating our reality so that we can learn exactly what we’re here to learn so we can grow closer to whatever you might call God, so we can become more benevolent, more compassionate, more gentle, more humble, more unconditionally loving?
I don’t know how these things work. I played around with these ideas in my upcoming book The Anatomy of a Calling: A Doctor's Journey from the Head to the Heart and a Prescription for Finding Your Life's Purpose, which you can pre-order here.
But I ask more questions these days that I dare to answer.
All I can conclude is that when it comes to spiritual teachings like this, we need to hold our viewpoints lightly. Be curious. Wonder. Be willing to participate in the co-creation of reality. Stay humble. Remain open to awe.
If things go the way you wish, stumble into gratitude wholeheartedly. And if not, be exquisitely tender with your heart. Find the gifts in the challenges without blaming yourself or wallowing in a victim story, but also be kind and acknowledge that it’s hard to be human, and we’re all doing the best we can.
If nothing else, practice compassion for all beings. Including yourself. BE love.