Posts Tagged ‘gift’

I am always amazed at how things often have a magical way of unfolding.

This past weekend I was supposed to go camping with my meditation group. We had had it on the calendar for a while and I had gotten the time off from my weekend job. I was excited as this would be my first camping trip in years and I looked forward to going deep, in the stillness of nature, with my sweet little meditation group.

But as it often does, things come up and as the weekend got closer, unfortunately a couple of people had to cancel and in the end we decided to postpone. I was disappointed, but I knew we’d go another time.

However, as the weekend unfolded, and different plans began to take form, I was blessed to witness something so magical, so inspiring, that I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

My good friend Rebecca (also from said meditation group) and I decided to go for a day hike in Tennessee Valley, just a handful of miles north of the city. San Francisco summer was full on: it was hot, sunny and clear blue skies; the perfect day for a hike to the beach.

When we got to the parking lot, we decided it was too hot for sneakers and slipped into more comfortable shoes for the fairly flat walk to the beach. Rebecca put on her favorite pair of flip-flops and we made our way to the Pacific. It was a beautiful day at the beach. It was hot, but there was a perfect, soft sea breeze and for once it was actually warm enough to wade in the water (a rare thing in San Francisco).

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

We left our shoes in the sand, went into the water, and waded around happily for a while at the shore. Walking along the beach, the tide was clearly coming in and the waves were catching us by surprise and splashing playfully against us. Set against the shimmering water were the beautiful California hills, limestone cliffs jutting up dramatically against the sky.

We walked around a rock and at that moment, we saw a big wave coming. Rebecca managed to run away from it, but I on the other hand was not fast enough and got a refreshing sprinkle.

With the tide coming in so fast, our thoughts turned to our shoes and it occurred to us that we hadn’t even thought about how far they were from the water. We wondered if they were even still there, or if they had been whisked away, sacrificed into the sea. We began walking back the short distance of the beach, preparing and laughing to ourselves about the prospect of having to possibly hike back to the car barefoot.

As we got closer and closer, I saw no shoes in sight. I was convinced they were long gone and I chuckled. Yes, it would be unfortunate, but it makes for a great story, so the humor in it did not escape me. However, as we made our way back to the spot where we thought the shoes were, a friendly woman asked us if these shoes were ours, pointing to the wet, sand-covered shoes. Yep, that was them. The tide had in fact tried to steal them away from us, but thanks to the kindness of complete strangers, we would not have to go shoeless that day. That was just one of the magical encounters of the day.

I tell this part of the story because it is relevant to the next part. If we hadn’t found our shoes, we wouldn’t have ventured out on our next adventure and we wouldn’t have experienced the most magical encounter of all.

As we began making our way back towards the car, along the dry, dusty path, we saw several different trails, to the left and right, meandering up and over the rolling hills. We knew we didn’t have loads of time, and as the trail heads were marked with their corresponding mileage, we decided to take the shortest one, a 1.9 mile trail up to the right. And off we went.

Shortly after embarking along the path, suddenly we were under a canopy of trees, in what I can only describe as a tiny enchanted forest. We crossed over a sweet little bridge over a trickle of river and the sun was magically filtering through the trees. Within the rest of the dry, hot landscape, this little oasis seemed very out of place. We reveled in it.

Emerging out of this small grove, we then started heading up and up over the hill. As we got further along and it began to get steeper, Rebecca began to hesitate. She was uncertain if her flip-flops would be able to handle the slippery slope back down and she of course didn’t want to fall. We knew we weren’t prepared to do a major hike in our chosen footwear, but we figured we’d go as far as we could. So we paused for a moment as she tested out the security of her footing beneath her.

In that moment, I looked up and saw something I will never forget. I turned to Rebecca and in response to her question about whether or not we should keep going, I said, “Look up and I think you have your answer. Let’s keep going.”

She looked up and saw what I saw. There was a man, with not one, but two prosthetic legs, walking carefully down the steep dirt trail, ensuring that he had his footing as he went. And if that isn’t incredible enough, not only did he have two prosthetic legs, he also had one prosthetic arm. And this man was hiking, by himself. Are you blown away yet? Because there’s more. Yes, more. On top of having three prosthetic limbs, this amazing human being was also carrying a mountain bike over his shoulder. This man (perhaps a veteran of war?), who through some unknown turn of events was left with only one natural limb, was spending the day hiking and mountain-biking. Rebecca and I were completely dumbfounded.

As the man (who was quite good-looking by the way- just sayin’!) walked by, we greeted him and asked him how his day was going. He returned our greeting with a friendly smile. We asked him how much farther it was to the top and he told us we were about 65% of the way. We wished him a beautiful day and kept on going. And as we continued up the hill, our hearts were blown wide open. We, both of us, were absolutely in awe of this beautiful spirit, this incredible being whose story we knew nothing about, but who clearly had the immeasurable strength to overcome so much adversity. And we stood in wonder of the resilience of the human spirit.

We got to the top of the crest and looked out at the breathtaking scenery: romantic, rolling hills colliding with the churning ocean, and a group of hawks soaring majestically above. I was filled with goose bumps. Rebecca and I looked at each other and we acknowledged the absolute gift with which we had just been blessed; the absolute wonder and testament to the triumphant nature of the human spirit. The two of us were overflowing with amazement and gratitude.

Tennessee Valley

In the end, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy that our camping trip got canceled because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that encounter for the world. It was an experience by which I was deeply humbled, a gift for which I am truly grateful, and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

And if ever you find yourself thinking that you are incapable of accomplishing or overcoming something? Think again.

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

~ Helen Keller

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We’ve all had bad things happen to us, when we’ve felt like we were being punished; when we’ve looked up at the sky and screamed “why me?” And we wonder why this situation, whatever it may be, has happened to us and not to other people. What did we do to deserve this?

At the end of 2010, I learned that two different friends had lost their jobs unexpectedly. Both felt the expected range of emotions: anger, resentment, hurt, fear of the unknown, uncertainty about their futures. My gut reaction was the same to both friends: I immediately felt a sense of freedom and jubilation for them. Although they were upset and resentful, I knew that this was a gift for them. I knew that the Universe was simply giving them a friendly “kick” in order to move them on to bigger and better things, into situations that were more aligned with their true purpose. They of course did not share this sense of excitement that I felt, which is understandable. At that time I wanted to write a blog examining whether such events are punishments or gifts. But something told me to wait…

Little did I know, a month later I too would unexpectedly lose my job. I was floored. I will admit there was a part of me that was relieved, as I had been unhappy in this job, but the larger part of me felt furious, upset, unappreciated, and out right hurt. I wondered “why is this happening to ME?” I knew I had been a good, hard-working employee, so I kept asking myself what I had done to deserve this. Now was my chance to test my own conviction and listen to my own advice! I had to remind myself of what I had felt and known about my two friends in similar situations: that they were in fact being given a gift.

You see, I had been through similar situations before, where I was certain I was being punished by a cruel Universe. But once time passed and events were allowed to unfold, in every one of those situations I was able to look back with 20/20 hindsight and see that the events that I had perceived as “punishment” had actually been gifts: True gifts.

Many of you already know of the hard times I lived through when I was living in Los Angeles: Rejected, heart-broken, jobless and largely friendless. After an extended period of unemployment, I was finally able to find a job, but only to be laid off 8 months later, a casualty of the deep recession that descended upon the country. Considering all of the other things that had gone wrong in my personal life, I just felt like nothing would ever go right. I felt completely trapped, completely stagnant. No matter how hard I tried to change and improve my situation, I just couldn’t seem to find a way out. I felt like I was being punished.

But then, a year later, just when I thought that that job in Los Angeles could never have helped me, that there couldn’t have been any good reason for it, I was offered a job in San Francisco, that was a direct result of having had that job. That job that had laid me off in Los Angeles, had been my ticket to freedom, it had been my ticket out of stagnation. It had been my ticket to San Francisco.

So here I am more than two years later and I’ve just lost that same job that brought me to San Francisco. But now I have perspective. I am able to look back and see how the dots connected. I know that that job in Los Angeles led me to this job here, and I know that this job led me to San Francisco. And I now know that losing this job has led me to freedom. I know now that the Universe is giving me yet another gift: it has released me from another unhappy situation, and has given me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.

As I said about my friends, I know that the Universe has given me a friendly “kick,” a slight nudge of encouragement to align myself with my truth path. And so now I walk forward, into a bright future, aligned with my true purpose. And I know that whenever something happens to me that at the time seems like a very clear punishment, that I will be grateful, because I know it will only be a matter of time before it reveals itself to actually be a gift.

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