Monday, February 20, 2017

"You can always stay with us"

In my previous post, I described my journey to finally becoming a published contributor to inspirational non-fiction books, which I’ve been wanting to get into for some time. Early last year I didn’t know how or when I would make that breakthrough, and, thanks to Jodi Chapman’s openness to previously-unknown writers, my work is now featured in two of her and Dan Teck’s 365 Series books.

365 Life Shifts, which comes out today, features a story I wrote about two of my dearest friends coming to my aid during the recession of 2008 by not only giving me a much-needed new perspective on life, but a much-needed place to live when the threat of homelessness had me feeling like a complete failure in life.

What I hope readers will get from my story is inspiration to view their own difficult circumstances and fears of failure differently. Rather than holding up my experience as a model for others to follow, I share it with the hopes that something in it will give you some insight you can use to develop more compassion for yourself and learn what there is to see when you stop letting your fears block your view.

My friends’ love and frank advice was my introduction to the compassionate reality-check. Instead of judging me for the situation I was in, telling me how I “should” fix my problems, or trying to be heroes and fix them for me, they simply offered their thoughts on my situation, and then offered me their spare bedroom. This is the kind of friend I want to be if I'm ever in a position to help a loved one see past their fears and past the conditioning they’ve grown up with that tells them they’re a failure if they find themselves unemployed and worried about being unable to take care of themselves when they've been told they “should” be able to do better.

Below is my Life Shifts story, exactly as it appears in the book.

Thank you for reading!

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You Can Always Stay with Us

What most people call guardian angels, Buddhists call shoten zenjin. The protective forces of the Universe aren’t always otherworldly; they can manifest in the love and generosity of living, flesh-and-blood people in our lives.

Long before I became Buddhist and understood this concept, my dearest friends, Cristina and Housein, became my shoten zenjin. This was in 2008 when, after being jobless for several months during the recession, I ran out of money and had to move out of my apartment within the month.

“I’ve started over again so many times I’ve lost count,” Housein told me. Thinking about all of his and Cristina’s ups and downs – including growing up in South America, traversing countries and continents as students and Baha’i pioneers, and moving almost every year while in Michigan – how they handled these situations was always an inspiration to me. In contrast, I tended to get bent out of shape and complain when the unexpected or inconvenient happened.

I realize now that this tendency of mine is exactly why my karma attracted Cristina and Housein to help me overcome my fears about not being able to take care of myself. They reminded me that this was a great opportunity to get rid of unnecessary extras and re-align my priorities. And then I realized that it wouldn’t even have to be nearly as difficult as I’d thought when Cristina said to me, “You can always stay with us.” A few days later, I took them up on their offer.

One night, after filling my car with a load of things to donate, I stood in the parking lot of my complex and gazed up at the cloudless, star-studded sky. I felt a calm wash over me as I stood there in the cold pondering those points of light, and I had an epiphany: nothing earth-shaking, but it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t a failure – my circumstances had failed me. And the Universe, through the help of my best friends and their demonstration of the virtues of our faith’s teachings, had given me new circumstances. Simple as that, really.

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