When my husband died many years ago, I spent a lot of time in sadness, grief, and guilt over what I could have done differently.
I knew that I did not have control over a car accident, but I did ask myself what I could have done or said to him on the days, months, and years leading up to it.
Was I kind enough? Did I tell him I loved him often? Did I make too much of a big deal over small things?
As a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine, I used to only on focus on lifestyle, dietary, and herbal recommendations to create a fulfilling, peaceful, and healthy life. On a regular basis, I suggested these changes to patients to help them reach their health and wellness goals.
Everything changed after the death of my husband, however, and I felt steered away from an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
The path that led me to this change proved hard and self-deprecating. I beat myself up over every little thing I did wrong, and I vowed to be nice and kind to everyone in my life going forward. I lost months worth of sleep worrying about whether or not I was doing the right thing in my other relationships, and I continued to regret past actions.
I was seeing a grief councilor at the time who took a Buddhist approach to life and death.
He encouraged me to stay in the present with my feelings, and not project them into the future or the past. Although I understood that on an intellectual level, the grief was so overwhelming that my human instinct was to try to get out of that state of mind by finding a solution.
Then one day, mere weeks after the accident, I got caught in the middle of a fight between a dog and a cat and had to go to the emergency room for multiple cat bites on my leg.
Again, I wondered what my lesson was and what the “universe” was trying to tell me. I cried and beat myself up for not understanding what I was supposed to do. I decided that life was telling me to start with a clean slate: the lesson was to close my Ayurvedic practice and find another path in my life. I mean, how could I help others when I could not even help myself?
I went to see an accountant and explained the situation and the lessons I learned, and asked if he could help me with the next steps to close my practice. I felt that if I could not help myself, then I was in no position to help others. He was silent at first and then what he said made me stop dead in my tracks:
“Not everything is a lesson you know,” he calmly stated.
I must have looked bewildered, because he continued, “I realize that you holistic healers encourage growing and learning, but sometimes, life just happens. And there is nothing that you need to do or change about it. Perhaps one day, you can look back on this and find some message or meaning, but right now, you just need to take care of the problems that arise with integrity, compassion, and truth.”
I realized in that moment that our new age culture has taught us to take so much responsibility for our actions that it has turned into shame. It was an aha moment when I remembered all the patients I had seen who suffered with sadness—simply from trying so hard to “learn” from a situation. The only thing it created was a self-loathing and self-blaming mechanism in place of blaming the world.
One time, while walking her dog at a crosswalk, my office manager got hit by a car running a red light. A yoga teacher told her that she probably needed to have that happen to help her slow down in life.
That’s ridiculous. We never have to get hit by a car for any reason. And besides, what could a dog learn from getting hit by a car?
We have been taught to either take responsibility or to give the responsibility to others. So often, I hear people talk about someone who was going through a divorce, an injury, or a health problem and what they probably did to create and attract that situation.
The reality is that sometimes sh*tty things just happen. Period.
We can avoid junk food, we can exercise, meditate, and eat whatever diet we choose and it will impact our quality of life. But at the end of the day, it is only our acceptance of life and all that it offers that will release us from these shackles of suffering.
Today, I am back to practicing Ayurveda, and in addition to the lifestyle, herbal, and dietary suggestions I make, I encourage freedom from blame and an acceptance of life as a path to healing. No lesson necessary.