Flower Mandalas

Flower Mandalas

The Transformative Power of Misfortune (2)

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A few days ago I was talking with another friend about misfortune. She did what she called a “quick scan” of the misfortunes in her life and concluded that if they were transformative, the transformation must be slow. That’s often the case, and because transformation can be slow, it may seem as if it isn’t happening at all. We may give up.

Most of the time, the transformation brought on by misfortunes happens only if we decide to look for the opportunity to transform. Until then, we may feel like victims or losers. For instance, an architect friend of mine spent the first 20 years of his career constantly being fired from jobs and, consequently, felt like a failure, wondering if he had chosen the wrong career. Then he realized that being fired was telling him something: he ought to be in business for himself. Now, he’s quite successful as a solo architect. Had he not come to that realization, learned the lessons of his misfortunes, he’d still be struggling. In my own life, it took me 10 years to recognize the transformation in a serious brush with death in a hospital in Albany, NY, 21 years ago. There were many losses associated with what happened there. But those losses — misfortunes — also led to my becoming a therapist, which has felt like a calling.

The growth opportunities in Really Bad Things may be difficult to discern because we are swamped by the negative impact of what has befallen us. But I think they are almost, perhaps even always, there, and we will find them if we keep open to their possibilites.

I wonder how you have dealt with adversity, and what you’ve learned from it. I hope you’ll share your experiences and insights here.

More anon,

David

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The Transformative Power of Misfortune (I)

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Sometimes, like Ray Charles I find myself feeling that “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” I think a lot of us feel that way. In a discussion with a friend earlier today, a woman I’ve known for 34 years, we realized that there is no boundary we can cross where we leave behind — become free of — our “stuff.” We carry it with us wherever we go. Whether it’s illness, accident, financial troubles, relationships, or any number of other misfortunes, for many of us the stuff that happened to us keeps on happening.

For most of my life, I looked at that as a Bad Thing, sometimes even a Really Bad Thing. But in the past couple of years, I’ve also seen that it’s an opportunity to grow, and even to heal old injuries. A few examples from my own life.

About two years ago, a relationship I’d hoped would last “for the duration” ended. Though this was not the first time I’d experienced such an ending, I was greatly saddened, and for a while felt empty and hopeless. How, at 61, does one begin again? I had no idea. I had much more time to myself, and this was unwelcome. It was lonely time, time in which a sense of aloneness I’ve carried with me since I was a small boy made itself known again. I suffered through it. Eventually, however, I thought, “I don’t know what to do about finding a mate, but at least I can deepen my spiritual practice.” So I rejoined the Buddhist communities (sanghas) I’d been a member of about ten years before, and I began to re-read books by Thich Nhat Hanh and other Buddhist teachers, and to reacquaint myself with mindfulness practices. Although none of this took the place of seeing my former partner, over time the emptiness filled in a way it had never been filled before — from the inside.

I had another go at my “stuff” in March of this year, when a cascade of physical problems began. My body malfunctioned in both old and new ways, and once again I was on the path of undergoing tests, doing therapies, and taking medications to try to put things right again. Sometimes I was too exhausted by the work week to leave the house when weekends came. I found myself once again facing that lonely self. At first, the feeling of loneliness was harder to endure than the physical problems. But, as time passed, I saw that the lonely boy inside me was not really alone; I could accompany him myself. That took healing-from-the-inside to a level I hadn’t experienced before.

My stuff is still my stuff, and most likely it will continue to be. But now I see that this isn’t a problem to be solved. It’s just how things are — and that’s okay.

I wonder how you have dealt with adversity, and what you’ve learned from it. I hope you’ll share your experiences and insights here.

More anon,

David

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Text and images © 2014, David J. Bookbinder. All rights reserved.
Permission required for publication. Images available for licensing.
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Imagination and Reality

Imagination and Reality

This showed up in my morning email, via Tricycle magazine, a wonderful center for all things Buddhist:

“Imagination draws its energy from a confrontation with desire. It feeds off desire, transmuting and magnifying reality through desire’s power. Fantasy does the opposite; it avoids desire by fleeing into a crude sort of wish-fulfillment that seems much safer. Fantasy might be teddy bears, lollipops, sexual delights, or superhero adventures; it also might be voices in one’s head urging acts of outrage and mayhem. Or it might be the confused world of separation and fear we routinely live in, a threatening yet seductive world that promises us the happiness we seek when our fantasies finally become real. Imagination confronts desire directly, in all its discomfort and intensity, deepening the world right where we are. Fantasy and reality are opposing forces, but imagination and reality are not in opposition: Imagination goes toward reality, shapes and evokes it.”

– Norman Fischer, “Saved from Freezing”

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Help me choose the 4-5 best essays!

Dear Readers,

I’m planning to enter an essay/memoir contest and need to choose 4-5 of the Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas essays from the 58 I’ve written so far. If any of you have particular essays you remember liking more than others, I’d love to hear about it, as I have no objectivity with them.

Here’s a link to the whole collection: Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas on WattPad

Please email me directly or comment on this post.

Thanks, as always, for your support.

David

 

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Previous Posts

The Transformative Power of Misfortune (5)
"Everything Happens for a Reason" I often hear the phrase "Everything happens for a reason" when I talk with people about their lives. The usual context is that something unexpected, often something bad, has occurred either in the distant past or more recently, and with a philosophical shrug and a

posted 12:24:49am Nov. 23, 2014 | read full post »

The Transformative Power of Misfortune (4)
Another post from a reader: A Journey of a Lifetime Being stranded at the bus stop in Rosendale more than 5,000 miles from home and a random act of kindness has led to an unbelievable journey for a SUNY Ulster student from the Republic of Azerbaijan. When Gulnar Babayeva arrived in the Hudson

posted 1:30:55pm Nov. 16, 2014 | read full post »

The Transformative Power of Art (1)
Haas & Hahn: How Painting Can Transform Communities Here's an example, on a big scale, of the transformative power of art! In a TED talk, artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn demonstrate how they built community and transformed neighborhoods by through painting -- and by throwing neighborhood

posted 10:00:20am Nov. 11, 2014 | read full post »

The Transformative Power of Misfortune (3)
A poem about her triumph over adversity from a reader: I could write to you about a grown up run away child that really ... Loved to love- Got beat up by a man that I loved That was 2009 I went to Kauai Walked and swam Looked at beautiful things Transformed I returned to the scene of the cri

posted 9:16:20am Nov. 10, 2014 | read full post »

The Transformative Power of Misfortune (2)
A few days ago I was talking with another friend about misfortune. She did what she called a "quick scan" of the misfortunes in her life and concluded that if they were transformative, the transformation must be slow. That's often the case, and because transformation can be slow, it may seem as if i

posted 11:20:53am Nov. 07, 2014 | read full post »


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