Article from VENTURE INWARD magazine September/October 2003

All for the best - The secret of happiness

No bad is allowed to happen
unless it is balanced with
the same amount of good.
Emanuel Swedenborg

bestThere is a lovely Persian fable that I used for my book ALL FOR THE BEST (Hampton Roads Publishing, Inc. 2003) It deals with an old man -- a carpet weaver -- who has his own unique way of facing the ups and downs of life. The story begins with a bandit who steals one of his sheep. When the neighbors hear of the crime they come rushing to the weaver and their voices are filled with rage, "We must catch the thief! He must be punished!" But the carpet weaver calmly replies, "It's all for the best.". The next day the bandit is caught and the judge orders him to return the sheep and give his horse to the carpet weaver as penance. Now all the neighbors come to congratulate and celebrate. But the weaver stays calm and says, "It's also for the best." hortly thereafter, the horse breaks out of the paddock and runs away. Again the neighbors come to comfort the carpet weaver. But he calmly says, “It’s all for the best.” A few days later the weaver’s horse returns – followed by two wild horses. When the neighbors hear about his good fortune they come to rejoice. But the weaver calmly says, “It’s all for the best.” Shortly thereafter the weaver’s grand son attempts to break in one of the wild horses. It bucks and throws him off. He falls to the ground and breaks his leg. Once again the neighbors come to commiserate. But the carpet weaver calmly says, “It’s all for the best.” Now the neighbors are enraged by his reply. Was he mocking their words of sympathy? They decide that they no longer want to have anything to do with him. The next day the king comes through the village looking for soldiers for his war. Loud are the cries of mothers, wives, and children as every able-bodied man in the village is taken. Every able-bodied man – except the carpet weaver’s son!

In this story the carpet weaver is not affected by the losses and gains in life, since he knows they are not what they seem. And at the end he compares his life with the underside of a carpet: “Many different colored threads are going every which way,” he says. “They make no sense at all. But one day we will see the right side of the carpet and will realize that everything as made a perfect pattern.”

How can we in our situation come to that point of not judging and realize that there is perfect order and purpose in every experience? If we look at our judgments we may find an answer: All judgments are caused by limiting perception - - seeing only fragments of the whole picture. This limits our understanding of what’s really going on. These misperceptions are reinforced by information we receive from the outside world - - like parents, relatives, friends, relationships, teachers, church, television, etc. The more we repeat these misperceptions the more we integrate them into our thinking process. They become automatic conclusions that lead to automatic reactions to everything we encounter. We perceive ourselves and the world around us as if we were wearing blinders, which give us a very narrow view. As long as we wear these blinders we will not see the complete picture. Only when we are willing to take them off can we see the whole picture.

The moment we take these blinders off we see holistically. We see the finished side of the carpet and the beauty of the complete pattern. It is always up to us when we choose to stop misperceiving and judging. It helps to go over our life and with the perspective of time see how one seemingly “bad” thing turned into “good” or brought about inner growth.

A classic story that demonstrates that point is the story of Joseph. Here we have a young boy who is sold into slavery by his own brothers. Fortunately, he becomes the favorite servant to a kind and wealthy Egyptian nobleman. Unfortunately, his master’s wife is very bored and lascivious. When Joseph is unwilling to succumb to her sexual advances she unjustly accuses him of attempted rape and Joseph is thrown into prison. Fortunately, Pharaoh hears about his skills at interpreting dreams and Joseph is appointed as Pharaoh’s servant, and eventually becomes a rich and powerful man in Egypt, where he is able to provide his father and eleven brothers (the future tribes of Israel) with food during the famine.

Listening to that story, we may think that this is all very well and a long a time ago, and it does not apply to our own present fearful situation. We are not convinced that our tragedy can possibly contain any benefits. Sometimes the benefits are not very obvious to us. But Dr. J.F. Demartini gives us an metaphor in his book Function or Dysfunction: If we were to imagine ourselves as an uncut diamond, we would probably regard the cutter, setter, and polisher as representations of the devil himself. But how would we look at them after their work is done? Instead of an ordinary, insignificant pebble, we now have become this thing of dazzling beauty - - revealing our inner radiance. We would then be grateful for these “hardships” that provided so much growth!

Situations that we perceive as negative have hidden benefits that cause us to grow. It is never the experience that we go through that matters, but what we become through the experience. This truth applies even to the most horrendous and painful situations. They are always perfectly balanced with the potential for growth into higher consciousness. Think, for instance, of Nelson Mandela who was locked up in total isolation for 28 years in South Africa’s most notorious prison. From this experience he became one of the most evolved, visionary, and peace-seeking leaders the world had seen for a long time. Not only was he beloved and honored by black voters - - but also by most white citizens! This is growth! This is evolvement!

We all had one or more ‘bad’ situations in our lives. Have we begun to see their benefits? Is it possible that the experiences have brought us farther on our path? Have they made us grow? Have they made us expand? Have they helped us to perceive ourselves and others with more love, understanding, and compassion? In short, have they made us more loving human beings?

Richard Bach put it perfectly in his book Illusions: “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

But it is not easy to acquire such a lofty view when we are down in the dumps. All we want then is to get out of the situation and get on with life! But it helps us to know that in every so called “bad” situation, in every problem there is a benefit or gift waiting for us. And “we seek the problems because we need their gifts” - - as Bach writes in Illusions.

These gifts do not reveal themselves necessarily immediately. Sometimes it takes time before we begin to appreciate them.

In my case I had to wait several years before I saw the gifts in one of my painful experiences: It happened during the years when I was travelling around the world that I went through two short but serious bouts of depression. The first one happened on the tropical island of Samoa and another one a year later when I was living on Ibiza in the Mediterranean. In spite of the magnificent beauty all around me, I was at an all-time low. I pulled myself out of it eventually as I began to understand the reasons for the depression. They were lack of orientation, lack of roots, feeling disconnected from others. I learned a lot about myself. But at the time I was not open recognizing the gift behind these insights and self-discoveries. Many years later, when I was living in America, I heard that a friend was going through the exact same experience. He was sailing all by himself on his boat in the Caribbean and was overcome by severe depression. Knowing exactly how he felt, I began sending him a constant stream of letters full of encouragement and support. Eventually, he got better and started a new productive and fulfilling life. He told me later that my letters actually saved him, because I was the only one who could understand his situation. He knew that if I had come out of my depression, so would he.

It is my strong conviction that if we realize the gift or benefit of the situation and grow from it, we can better understand, assist, and help others. How many founders of charity organizations once had to go through the same experience as the people whom they later decided to help? They did not allow their illness, poverty, or hardship, to hold them back. Instead they used them as a gift for change and growth.

We have all heard - - or even given - - the advice: “Look for the silver lining!” This is a very powerful statement, because on a deep level we have always perceived that there is a “good” in every “bad.” Unfortunately, over time, these words have been repeated so often that they have become a cliché that has lost much of its punch.

It is now time to look more deeply into this saying and rediscover its wisdom. The dark cloud is the symbol for what we call “bad.” And the silver lining is the benefit, the gift, it contains for us. In other words, what we call “bad” is actually serving our growth. In truth there is nothing on earth that does not serve us in our growth. Wisdom always sees that seemingly loose ends are connected and balanced. And if our Higher Self cherishes a deep desire for freedom, wisdom, unity with God, then everything around us will eventually bring to us the fulfillment of that goal - - even those experiences that we initially call “bad.” We will see -- just like the weaver in the story – that “it’s all for the best.”