Listen for Gentle Instruction
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2015 (edited December 18, 2021)
Life invites us to make changes. When we fail to listen to these gentle life lessons, our stubbornness invites the life lessons that hurt.
We learn best through gentle instruction. Soft lessons are less threatening, gently allowing absorption and integration. If we mindfully tune into experience, we notice feelings emerging in conjunction with events, signaling the level of importance. With closer awareness, we can loosen ego’s grasp, and learn. We quickly overlook the subtle soft messages, missing opportunities for wisdom and growth. If in your past, you have been blind to the wondrous experience of living, don’t panic, life’s quiet lessons return—often a little louder and with more force.
Life's Loud Lessons
Loud painful lessons don’t guarantee learning, unconscious living fails to see the obvious. Without constructive reflection, painful experiences don’t make sense, appearing random and unfair. We scratch our heads and wonder why.
We ignore, dismiss and excuse responsibility. We errantly blame the wrong causes and learn the wrong lessons. Continued refusal to humbly learn, leads down stubborn destructive paths, protecting our egos while destroying futures. In protection of self, we destroy our lives trying to prove to the world that we are right. We justify our insanity as reasonable—and excusable.
Life's loud lessons may include:
Mindful Reflection of Disappointment
Discovering patterns that connect personal actions to repeated disappointments, uncovers personal deficits partially responsible for failures. The gentle life lessons discovered unmask hidden secrets. We easily can ignore these soft life lessons. Their subtleness don’t demand attention. We often wait for complete collapse, hitting rock bottom; but even then, many still miss life's lessons, preferring to blame.
Life's gentle lessons may include:
Protecting the Ego through Denial
Taking responsibility for decisions that contribute to destructive consequences isn't easy. We must admit our indulgent perception of personal perfection, letting go of soothing commitments to being a victim. We turn our heads and miss the flaws.
By protecting tender egos, we unintentionally injure futures, we are the fools. By repeatedly enduring unpleasantness in life without scrutinizing our roles, we miss life lessons—the golden opportunities for improvement.
Life Lessons Return with Greater Force
We hold no power over the universe. The world turns according to natural laws. We do, however, have a measure of control over our response to happenings in the universe. Our actions are key to improvement. If we fail to learn the first time we are knocked down, typically life will bring the lesson back with greater force.
Some painful experiences aren’t because of personal choice. But many, if not most, are intricately tied to behaviors, choices and thoughts—elements we where we have some control. With complexity, the causes of experience are numerous. Many contributors collide at each moment, creating the event. We can search to find more pleasing explanations, shrugging our involvement. But by excusing personal accountability and deflecting blame, we never gleam sufficient insight from the life lesson to avoid repeating of the same pitfall. We relive the tragedy.
See Life is a Complex Problem for more on complexity.
We must choose to learn. Life lessons are clear only to those willing to seek wisdom. A timeless Buddhist proverb teaches, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” We must humbly examine disappointments and hurts. Only with the humility and desire to learn gracious life lessons can we discover the flourishing and bountiful life.
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