Life lessons the hard way

March 2, 2015

sheep grazeIt’s very hard to think of the troubles of other people as life lessons for the rest of us. It’s just not how we’re used to thinking.  In a way, we think of ourselves as a herd, not unlike the one above, going through life as it lays before us. Some of us even believe we create our lives and what we do is a result of our own desire and actions in this life.

I thought that way, once. But I don’t any longer.

Poor, daffy Shirley MacClaine cemented her reputation as a nutcase when she suggested Holocaust victims might have been killers in past lives who were subsequently paying for past sins.  I get what she meant, but it was an unfortunate example. I love Shirley’s enthusiasm, but she’s not the best person to introduce these concepts to mainstream America. I can’t fault her, though, for believing as she does.

I, too, believe in past lives and that we know ahead of time what each incarnation will bring–and agree to it. Because life on earth is Soul School, a place where we learn just by going through the life we have chosen.

Most people in the U.S. do not believe as I do, I know.  I didn’t always believe it, myself.  This idea that we make deals before we come into this world with others who will be in our lives–even those who treat us badly–it’s not compatible with the Judeo-Christian ethic.  But it is what I have come to believe.

Everything that has happened to me in this lifetime has been meant to teach me something–assuming I let it.  And when bad things happen to people I love, it behooves me to see if there is something for me to learn.

Guru Ram Dass was given a perfect example of this in 1997 when he was in bed thinking about how to end a book on aging. The book is Still Here, by the way, and it’s full of wisdom.  Anyway, he was trying to “feel” his way into aging, imagining what it would be like to be very old and unable to move and speak easily. It was then that he realized he could not move his leg. In fact, he’d had a debilitating stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body and limited his ability to speak.

He has continue to teach and inspire, despite the stroke.

Ram Dass tells us that the slowing down that comes with aging may well be a built-in method of reminding us it’s time to take it easier, to observe and contribute at a different and more meaningful level.  He now looks on his stroke the same way.  He intended to come up with an ending to the book, but he was given so much more.

A gift?  That’s not how most of us would view a massive stroke. But he got the lesson and in sharing it with the world, his stroke was a gift to us, too.

On my way to the hospital to visit my friend the other day I had an epiphany about the balance of power in friendship and also about my own relationships. The details are unimportant, but it was an aha! moment that was a direct result of my many thoughts during and about my friend’s long hospital stay.

“Holy shiz!” I thought to myself. “I just learned something about myself from this experience.”

I don’t know many people who would consider a serious illness a gift. It would be a challenge for me, too.  A natural response would be to bemoan our situation and ask, “Why me?”

And yet, when bad things happen to us, or to good people we know, it’s appropriate for us to dig deep and like Ram Dass, look for our own lesson in that.

Because chances are, there is one.



42 comments on “Life lessons the hard way
  1. Ruth Curran says:

    My gift came wrapped in a car accident…. I know that and I own it. Things do just happen. I know that and own that too. I think that that big light bulb of realization is always hanging over our heads. It needs the energy we give it when we recognize a gift, even the most unlikely or illogical ones, to light up.

    • Yes, it is hard pill to swallow, I know, and I’m not so sure how I’d be in that situation. It’s a tough concept. But reading your comment, your post today and Cathy’s, I can see clearly how it works. You are both inspirational in the way you have turned these things into gifts. Blessings to you both!

  2. I’m don’t exactly believe in reincarnation, Carol, but I do believe we’re all here to learn. I do believe there are some lessons that keep getting repeated too, until we get them right. In the last few years, I see every ‘bad’ experience – mine or another’s – as a lesson for me.

    However, I wouldn’t presume to tell someone else that their pain is meant to be a lesson! That’s for each individual to find out for themselves.

    • I completely agree that telling someone that would be a hard pill to swallow. It is, though, a technique among people of faith for handling the fact that bad things do happen. In my Catholic days we’d “give it up to God” and this is just a different version of that. Because really, all faiths are rooted in the same place.

  3. I agree that our lives are full of lessons to be learned. Some of the hardest and most tragic lessons are the most difficult to find the lesson because it is filled with emotion.

  4. Yup. You were right. I seem an unintentional theme between our posts and Ruth’s. Blessings taken from adversity and stepping back to learn the lessons. Life is one continuous lesson. I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation, but I do believe we’re all here for a reason, and that there are no coincidences. Glad we’re all learning and figuring it all out together!!

  5. Amalia says:

    Carol, I just wanted to tell you that your blog is lovely! The pale pink with the purple, and the pictures at the top. . . beautiful. 🙂

  6. I love your thinking!! SO inspirational. Thanks for this great read this morning!

  7. I hated my tumors…..yet I guess I wouldn’t be where I am without them! It’s a love-hate relationship we have with challenges.

  8. Kim Tackett says:

    I love this idea that our life here is soul school. And lessons…the biggest ones come when we really commit to digging deeper. That means putting in our time…for ourselves, and for others. Thanks for the thoughts this morning.

  9. Kathy Hadley says:

    I believe that we are eternal beings and have always been and will always be.

    How that actually manifests in physical reality, I’ve had different opinions throughout my spiritual journey.

    I wouldn’t necessarily call hardships a “gift” but I have certainly learned a lot from everything that has happened to me in life.

    Since Universal Laws allow us to create/attract everything in our lives, I think that we may have missed the changes to “learn” things or really to get on the track of what we really wanted and when we missed those earlier, less challenging chances, the Universe bumps it up because of what we say we want until we have to get “kicked in the head” sort of speak with some big hardship to get our attention.

    At any rate, very interesting topic for discussion.

    Since you mentioned Judeo-Chirstian beliefs, you may be interested in what Jesus has to say about that in present time.

    How it really all fits together.


    Kathy Hadley

  10. Tina says:

    Carol, visiting your blog after a long time. Frankly i don’t know if there was a life before this or will there be one after. May be this is the only life we have got and should make the most of it. Though here in India the concept of reincarnation is deeply etched in mythology and other cultural believes and have seen many practitioners of past life regression who claim to help with regression. Don’t know the truth though. But I can also tell that getting a punishment in any life for something which one might have done in some other life can’t be logical. Nice post.

    Tina from The Sunny Side of Life

  11. My moto “do well to receive good” always positive attitude and kindness is the way to go. Don’t have a good thing to say better not say anything my second motto.

  12. Fascinating post today. Kudos.

  13. This is fascinating to me you know my story and I was just saying to another blogger talking about her diagnosis and how it changed her life. I don’t think if I had the opportunity to go back and change things that I would. My past experiences have taught me so many things and I am still learning every single day. I have a life that most people ever dream about. I’m not rich but I am. I have a husband that not only stood beside me during the darkest days of my life but loaned me his strength and carried me across the finish line. I spend everyday with my mother in the last days of her life and have learned so much about a woman that I didn’t even know existed. I have learned to put words into sentences into paragraphs and feel a sense of accomplishment that I have never felt in my life. I’ve lost that fear of failure because I’ve come farther than I ever thought possible so there is no failure in my eyes. I hope I get to come back and do it all again because in my eyes it’s been pretty damn fabulous!

    • I hear that all the time–“I wouldn’t have it any other way” –and most of us find that so hard to fathom. It shows such incredible spiritual maturity. Rena, thanks for adding so much to this discussion.

  14. Jeanine says:

    I’m not sure what all I believe but I do believe in Karma. I always try to do good and if for a second I am second guessing myself I remind myself of Karma. And you are so tight, hard pill to swallow for sure.

  15. I don not beleive in re-incarnation, however, I respect the opinions of those who do. And as some others have mentioned, I would never like to think of someone else’s punishment or tragedy as a life lesson.

  16. I have learned a million things from the things that have happened in my life…but I don’t know that I would call them a “gift”. It was a gift that Randy received lungs at the last minute….but I can’t say his illness itself was a gift…I’d rather it hadn’t happened.

  17. Carolann says:

    I am on the same page as you – I do believe in both karma and past lives…It’s what makes the most sense to me for sure. Life is a huge lesson for sure, and you are right…hoping we let it teach us!

  18. Kim says:

    This truth will always remain. Things certainly do change!

  19. Fascinating post. I had no idea Shirley said that! I knew she was a kook but using the Jews as an example…not in the best taste.
    I believe we are here learning some lesson or another. My kids are old souls. Don’t ask how I know but I see in their eyes and I believe in karma and past lives.

  20. Liz Mays says:

    I’m thinking that two people could experience the same thing and one may learn something and the other may not. It’s so individual! I think at different times of my life I would have learned different things too.

  21. Diane says:

    i so agree that life is the teacher and we are here to learn. The more painful the lesson the more we learn from it. Sigh.

  22. I do try to find the silver lining in negative experiences by using them as life lessons. Some are definitely more challenging than others!

  23. I also believe in reincarnation and that we are sent here to learn different lessons. I’m always surprised about how many believe it, though, you’re right–it’s not many over all.

  24. Stephanie says:

    Very inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Andi says:

    I believe in past lives but not so much in fate, mixed in with the I think the Universe has a master plan but that it is somewhat fluid – that is whole bunch of illogicalness, but it works for me!

  26. Britney says:

    I don’t believe in reincarnation but I think we need to be reminded of things we’ve already learned, sometimes way more than we probably should. We have to remember that there are going to be problems but it’s all about attitude and how we look at it!

  27. Tesha Fritz says:

    I believe there is a blessing in every lesson. The only true tragedies happen when no learning takes place.

  28. I can’t agree. I would never call it a gift. It is what is it… maybe a lesson but never a gift; no matter what good might come out of it

  29. Amanda McMahon says:

    I think that we all have our beliefs and as long as we’re open, we can learn lessons from each other and grow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.