Remember these? If you’re my generation, you probably do remember this, well, fortune-telling game. And in a way, life is sort of like that game.

We get what we get. The rubber meets the road in how we respond to it. How we deal with it.

Sleepless, I listened to a Baba Ram Dass podcast from the early 1970s last night. It was all about finding the gift in everything, even the bad stuff that happens. Being grateful for it, even, because it’s meant to be a lesson.

No one knows this better than Baba Ram Dass, who was debilitated by a stroke in 1997. In an instant, his life changed. His sharp intellect was still there, but this loving spiritual master could no longer live independently. He was paralyzed on one side and had expressive aphasia and serious chronic pain. All the wise thoughts and words were there, just as they were before the stroke, but he couldn’t get them out. Ironic, since at least to me he is one of the biggest intellects of our time.

Finding the gift in that stroke would be a challenge for a lesser person. Maybe it WAS a struggle for him, I don’t know. But he was certainly better prepared spiritually than most to handle this kind of life-changing event.

Earlier this year I was re-reading Conversations with God, in which the author was told by God that nothing we encounter in life on earth is really a lesson because we already know all this stuff. (You may recall my short post about it.) Life on earth is meant to allow us to practice what we already know. Which we can do to a greater or lesser degree.

I don’t have any special insight into finding the gift in the hard stuff of life. But if we’re spiritual beings, then we know there is more than this. That life goes on because we are pure spirit, souls living an earthly existence. Maybe we look at suffering as a lesson or maybe it’s chance to practice what we already know.

But it doesn’t matter which we believe.

Ram Dass teaches that once anger and fear are diffused, suffering can be a portal to greater peace, wisdom and healing. Rather than let the hard stuff throw us, he teaches us to love and appreciate all of ourselves, even the painful parts. Embrace our vulnerability. Make friends with our suffering. He insists that we can navigate the difficult emotions and emerge awakened and full of joy and in fact, has modeled that for us these past 20+ years.

This can be hard for some of us to swallow. It asks us to look at a picture bigger than any other. To have the courage of our spiritual convictions.

It’s something I do spend time thinking about. And I’d love your thoughts.

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