The Gifts Of Adversity
I have this little saying taped on the book shelf near my computer that says "Every adversity has an equal or greater benefit." I have incorporated it into my belief system and constantly quote it to my clients, friends and family. At first upon hearing this statement one might be inclined to ask for further clarification. For it would seem that adversity is anything but our teacher or liberator. If anything it would appear that adversity is a grand foe that we must devote our every strength and effort to defeat.
Although this might seem to be the case, such is not the case at all. This I have learned after many years of struggle. I have learned that often things are not at all as they appear to be and what turns out to be adversity and hardship can turn out to be a blessing from the universe and our guides. I speak quite a bit about my terribly difficult childhood in my book Halfway To Heaven. It was full of mental, emotional abuse and my father was also very physically abusive to my mother. How can there be a gift or a blessing in having to endure a childhood full of misery, suffering and abuse you might ask? Believe you me I asked that question many times when I was a child and when I reached maturity as an adult.
To my surprise I learned that there were many blessings in store for me as a result of the adversity I endured at home. Adversity wound up becoming one of my highly regarded teachers and ultimately my liberator. What adversity did was open me up to an entirely different world where things are not as they appear on the outer surface. It opened me up to the inner world where I contacted spirit, my own soul, and many invisible beings and guides who were to become my companions and helpers.
As I became more open-minded I branched out and I began to explore spiritual metaphysical teachings. I learned that there are the great universal laws operating in the universe and when we align ourselves with these laws we set into motion energies which move outside of us into the world of outer form. They can help put us in contact with people, circumstances and situations that are in alignment with what we wish to create and to manifest.
What this basically means that magic and miracles do exist and the way we make them happen is by adjusting our thinking. If everything were hunky dory then there would be no reason to reach inward and to learn how to align ourselves with the great laws of the universe.
I believe that I was unconsciously aware of these universal laws long before I studied and learned about them. Due to the adversity at home I turned within at a very young age reaching deeper and deeper seeking inner spiritual resources and solutions to the terrible life that I was living. I learned that prayer and meditation are powerful tools to bring about change and to help us to manifest our hopes and dreams. I learned that fortitude and willful determination are qualities that we can all access to help us along our pathway in life and it frequently requires adversity to push and boost us into going within and discovering our inner reservoirs of strength and power. At a young age I learned about the power of positive thinking and the benefits of utilizing affirmations and visualizations. Long before I read Shakti Gawain's book Creative Visualization, I was already working with creative visualization and affirmations.
I prayed to God and the angels everyday to get me out of my horrible home and to find me a college. I had an inner knowing from a young age that higher education was to be a part of my life plan and I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve that goal. This is not to say that I just sat back and lived in a dream world and prayed for the magic and miracles to come my way. I became what I call a 'doer' in my book Halfway to Heaven as well as a dreamer. Action must accompany contemplation, prayer, and dreaming for success to take place.
Now what do we do and not do? That can become the sixty-four dollar question. I believe that if we are sincere that we will be shown and guided as to what actions to perform, when to perform them and when not to. Sometimes it is important to just go out on a limb and follow our hunches and intuition. We may make a mistake but that is no sin. Learning by trial and error has its place and the more we begin to follow our intuition and gut reactions the more we will find that it turns out to be right.
Like learning to speak a foreign language or playing the piano practice makes perfect.
To illustrate the need for action I want to share a personal memory and story. I have a fond memory of going into my social worker's office one day. After being in three different foster homes the Dept. of Child Welfare decided to grant me permission to go back home and see if Dad and I could work things out. I was going to be a junior in high school and I desperately wanted to finish high school in my home town and graduate with friends that I had grown up and attended grade school with. Unfortunately things did not work out at home. Shortly before moving into another foster home which was not that far from home (thus I did not have to change high schools) I woke up on morning with this strong urge to visit my social worker. It was a Friday and I knew that she was usually in her office on Friday. There was no phone in the house so I did not have a means to call her. I just decided to follow my instinct and walk the two miles to her office.
Not only was my social worker there but standing next to and talking to her was her supervisor, Gail Chandler. After Gloria, my social worker, introduced me to her supervisor I shook her hand and said, Mrs. Chandler I so much want to go to college. Will you please help me? I study very hard and my grades are good. Reading and learning are so important to me. Life at home is hell. I have to get away from my father and I just have to go to college."
"It just so happens that I don't have any more appointments or commitments for today. Why don't you have a seat, Michael," she said. "You too, Gloria. Let's have a little conference."
We all talked for awhile. Gloria filled her in on my recent difficulties at home with my father. Then Mrs. Chandler looked at me and said, "Michael, there is a wonderful little private liberal arts college about an hour south of Lexington. It's called Berea College. I think Berea would be a wonderful place for you. It's a small college and they really do look after their students. As a matter of fact Berea College is my very own alma mater. I will be glad to write you a letter of recommendation but to be honest, Michael, I think that the best thing that you could do is to write a personal letter to the office of admissions. Tell them what you told me. Just speak from your heart. That will give you as good as any chance at getting accepted at Berea".
A few weeks later Gloria and I were off to visit the Berea College campus. The rest is history and now I am proud to say that this wonderful little private college, who caters to students with academic promise but who lack the financial resources to pay for a college education, is my very own alma mater.
You might ask if it was it a coincidence that my social worker and her supervisor were in the office at the same time on that Friday so many years ago? And was it a coincidence that they actually had the time to talk to me? I don't believe in accidents or coincidences. I think that the so-called coincidence was a synchronous event that took place because of an inner prompting that spurred an outside event. I dreamed everyday of going to college. It never occurred to me that I would not go. Then I took action by going to my social worker's office, asking her supervisor for help and then taking her advice by writing the heartfelt letter to the Board of Admission at BereaCollege. Dreaming and Doing. They go hand in hand.
Naturally my father was not thrilled when he heard the news that I got accepted by a college. Looking back I think that it reminded him of his own failed dream at education and brought up some old pain. He just did not have it in him to be glad or proud of me. That is very sad and even worse I sometimes think he took out his bitterness and frustrations on his family because he had never worked out his issues with his parents. Mom once told me that dad wanted to finish high school, but he didn't have any decent clothes to wear. His father was a miser and would not buy him any new clothes. His blue jeans had holes in them. Nowadays that would not be an issue for young folks to wear faded jeans with holes in them is not looked down upon. So dad just quit school after the eighth grade. No he did not have to put me down and constantly belittle me. But that is what he did, or that is how the cookie crumbled as an elder lady friend used to say so often.
Not only did dad put me down constantly he would call me a sissy and a book worm because I loved to read and learn. Yes, such cruel comments were darts to my tender soul and heart and created much havoc and adversity in my life. But his behavior also made me go within. It made me stronger in the long run so in that regard I do not regret it although I do admit I had to spend quite a bit of time in therapy to sort all the old hurts and issues out.
I hope this little article helps you to see that there can be hidden blessings and gifts from the adversities we face in life. May we reach out and extend our arms, and our hopes and reach for our dreams. May we follow our hunches and talk to our guides and angels and may we be 'dreamers' and 'doers!'