Incredible as it sounds, this means that Life isn't happening to us, it's happening for us. That is why the great Buddhist teacher Pema Chodren advises us to meet each experience of our life with the words: "I agree, I agree." That is why D.H. Lawrence wrote that when the "three strange angels" come knocking on our door, we must admit them. That is why in the book "The Prayer Chest" that I wrote with Joel Fotinos years back, the third and most important secret of answered prayer was "Welcome everything." For if everything in Life is coming to grow us, then by asking life to shrink our rent, or our relationship problems, or our illness or our whatever, we are telling life not to do the job that it is designed to do. We are stopping the flow of life from flowing through us because we don't realize that the strange angel that is knocking on our door is Life's messenger of growth. And it's usually the strange angels that light a fire under our a-- and get us going faster and farther than the Hallmark ones.
Life is a conversation means that without exception Life brings us the experiences we need in order to find within ourselves the greatness that is needed to overcome any obstacle. "Within, within," verse 62 of the Tao Te Ching claims, "this is where the world's treasure has always been." Life leads us down below our everyday surface selves to find the gold buried in the rich, dark soil of our depths. There we find what we're really made of and who we really are.
But because we don't know that Life is a conversation about our growth, humankind sends its prayers out to the stratosphere for light and ease and peace and quiet and nice-things-only-please to prevail. And the majority of those prayers -- if not all of them -- seem not to be answered. The truth is they are answered!
They are answered by bringing us challenges, sometimes big challenges -- the very ones that only our bigger Self can overcome. That's the idea -- to take our bigger Self out of hiding, the bigger self we don't even know is indwelling until we have reason to call on it. Only our bigger Self is big enough to handle the insurmountable problem for it doesn't see the problem as a problem, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow like everything else in nature. For when does the baby bird learn that it has wings and how to use them except in the seemingly heartless moment when its mother pushes it from the nest. Only when we start seeing our Life in this way do we begin to live the greater story of our lives.
To enter the conversation with Life, we have only to change one key word: We have to stop asking why this is happening to me, and start asking why it is happening for me?
In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "The Three Languages," when the son is disowned by his father and sent into the woods to die, he doesn't spend the rest of his days asking "Why me?" He enters the conversation with Life by moving ahead on the path, even when it leads him to the basement of an old tower filled with angry, wild dogs. To survive he must find a way to calm and understand them. Facing that outrageous obstacle helped him understand who he truly was, and grew him into the man Life needed him to be. The hero's journey is not for heroes. It is the true journey our soul takes through this life here on Earth. It is our journey.