Recognise those teachable moments

Saturday November 07, 2015 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

After a virtues workshop, the programme director gifted me with a massage.


I had been to the therapist a couple of years before and remembered it being merely a pleasant experience.

This time, she seemed to possess special intuitive powers, knowing where and how to touch, to release tension in my muscles as well as my inner being. I felt amazing afterwards; utterly relaxed yet energised.

She and I were silent much of the hour, but at times we talked. She shared that an injury had forced her to stop work for several months. When she returned to work, she said, “I seemed to come back with more.”

Silently, I thought “You’re not kidding!”

She added, “I’ve never been more grateful, having gone through that pain. I thought I was an expert on pain, until that happened. Now I understand so much more.”

I thought back to the profound grief I experienced while tending my brother John before he died of brain cancer and the tsunami of grief that drowned me afterwards for a long time. Out of that came the inspiration to write a book for others facing death or caring for a loved one – “Graceful Endings: Navigating the Journey of Loss and Grief.” People tell me all the time what a difference it has made to them. 

The massage therapist’s joy in facing her own pain put me in mind of one of the Five Strategies of The Virtues Project: Recognise Teachable Moments.

Many sacred texts teach that life is “soul school” and all that happens is grist for the Creator’s mill, including and especially our tests.

Going through difficulties has the power to transform us, to hone our souls, as a good gardener prunes a tree or plant to help it bloom fully.

Although it may feel like punishment, perhaps it is the Divine gardener’s plan to help us become the best we can be.  Peter Feddema wrote: “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot sustain you.”

Latter Day Saints writer John Bytheway said, “Something wonderful happens when we really know, without a doubt, that God loves us—our questions completely change. Instead of asking.

“Why did this happen to me?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God care about me?’ we say, ‘Well, I know God loves me; I know that. So what can I learn from this experience?’” Proverbs 3: 11-12 says, “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

How can we be honestly thankful for the difficult things in life, the losses, the illnesses, the troubles? One thing I’ve noticed is that when we resist and resent our tests, we are basically saying, “Lord, you’ve got it wrong.” We are refusing to grow. Too often, after great suffering, our very identity becomes the victim. If instead we look for the gift in the test, and learn from it, we develop strength, detachment, courage, and a greater capacity for joy.

We find that “Thy tests are a healing medicine to such as are nigh unto Thee.” (Baha’i Prayers) Much of our spiritual work is to open fully to Grace, to purify and heal ourselves of habits that don’t serve us – such as backbiting, criticizing, chronic complaining, self-pity, and habitual negativity.

We have been given a huge responsibility in this life, the free will to make choices. Not only do we receive tests from the spiritual realm, we create plenty for ourselves.

God allows us to do so, but whether coming from Spirit or ourselves, any time we stop and reflect to ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this? What virtue do I need?” the light dawns. We are choosing to grow.

We are recognising and accepting the teachable moment. Our tests are spiritual lesson plans, to develop the virtues that are the truest expression of our souls.  

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