I often think about situations as simply the “condition that is arising.” Whether it appears “good” or “bad,” it ultimately is a condition in which I can observe who and how I am. I have a relative who was recently diagnosed with cancer. It has been a roller coaster type of situation – from dealing with something unexpected to thinking that it was going to be a quick, terminal illness to the current information, which appears to be a cancer that is quite curable and straightforward to deal with. The person also currently has a a positive attitude about it, which supports our ability to reflect and not just to react.
Over the past few weeks, I have observed that this “negative” situation has already had many positive results as the condition itself has provided those around this person with chances to grow and to connect in new ways. It has had, in other words, some gifts. I am not saying this glibly – in other words, the situation includes pain and uncertainty and suffering, but as a neutral condition, it has also included love and vulnerability and connection. If someone says to me, “I’m sorry this is happening,” I cannot truly receive that sentiment. Is it something for which to be sorry? It is more useful for me to inquire within to understand the message of what is arising. In this specific situation, I have noticed that my fear of death is still stubbornly surfacing. I have observed that another person in the situation has found ways to provide nurturing and tenderness in ways that are new and rewarding. I have experienced the joy of direct communication and of being able to be with fear and despair. I have learned more about the medical system. I have noticed my ability to have compassion for all involved. I have practiced calming my racing brain – sometimes without any success at all!
The “gift” in any particular condition is not always easy to see or trust, and, with credit to my mother for this analogy, I have been thinking about how a gift has to be unwrapped. And sometimes there are layers and layers of wrapping paper and knots in the ribbon, and sometimes even twine wrapped all around the gift. Sometimes even when you unwrap it, you might not be able to tell what it is or understand its purpose. Sometimes you are focused on saving the paper and keeping things neat, while you unwrap. And sometimes, it is something you already have received in the past, so you are a little disappointed to get it again!
In any situation – illness, a change in relationship, a new job or job loss, a child leaving home, a flat tire, a sudden downpour – there is the opportunity to observe our reactions. Are we willing to be with our feelings, however uncomfortable? Are we able to notice our desire to escape discomfort? Can we be open to noticing something new about ourselves? I feel committed to learning more about receiving each situation as a condition with gifts to discover. And hope for myself and others balm and patience with whatever snags and obstacles arise as the gifts are unwrapped.