How do you respond to calamity? For most people, the first response is to bemoan our bad luck. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Is this my karma coming back to bite me?
Very often, however, with the passage of time, we look back upon that supposed tragedy and see it from a new perspective. Like a shiny gemstone being cracked out of bleak stone, we see it from our new vantage point as a “blessing in disguise.” We recognize that the event wasn’t the calamity we originally thought it was, but an opening to something new and better.
My own path is a testament to the power of finding our blessings in disguise. Over a decade ago, my life began to crumble around me: A long-term relationship ended, my career path was suddenly upended, and it felt like the universe was conspiring against me at every turn. With my life plans jettisoned, I was forced in a new direction, which led to a life-changing spiritual awakening, and then becoming a conscious channel and intuitive healer. Without those so-called “terrible” events, I couldn’t have become the person I am today.
Identifying our blessings in disguise is a tremendously powerful spiritual practice. It retrains your mind to meet life differently. When you make it a discipline, a series of shifts happens.
1. You Let Go of Your Tendency to Judge
The chief lesson of all blessings in disguise is that appearances are deceiving. The current “calamity” in your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may be painful to experience it, but our judgment of it as a “bad” event is based solely on how we relate to that pain. It’s not easy to remain positive in the face of pain, but you can recognize that this moment is temporary, and that your judgment that this is “bad” is probably an overreaction.
By looking back over your life and seeing your many blessings in disguise, you start to set aside the tendency to see yourself as a victim. The next time something “bad” happens to you, just pause and say to yourself, “Maybe. It might be a bad thing or it might be a good thing.” Recognize that you are making a snap judgment and that you cannot see the full picture just yet. In this way, you remain open to the possibility that the negative meaning you want to attach to this event may be a misinterpretation. Time will tell.
You cannot fully appreciate the role that any given event will have in your life. When you are able to see events from a broader time horizon, your perspective shifts. Countless people have gone through divorce or lost a job, only later to say that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. For me, the painful end of a decade-long relationship that wasn’t working opened the doorway to finding true love a few years later.
2. You Learn the Power of Your Words
It’s a key spiritual truth that your words create your world. Retracing the past to find the blessings in disguise shows you how much your words shape your perceptions. As I said before, when you label a situation as “bad,” you’re often reacting to how the experience makes you feel. The negative meaning you attach when we make a snap judgment often accompanies an equally negative emotional reaction — anxiety, despondency, anger, etc.
When you describe that same event as a “blessing in disguise,” your words recast this event in a new light, often sparking a new emotional reaction. You can harness the power of your words to alter how your perceive that same event before the blessing itself blooms. Let go of words like “bad” and start referring to them as “challenges” or “lessons.” Does the butterfly regard its struggle through the cocoon as a disaster or challenge that will transform it into a miracle? By using different words, you can take some of the sting out of the situation.
It’s also important to notice when you start to form beliefs around events. When you endure some painful event or setback, you often generalize and form a belief like “Life is cruel” or “People will let you down.” It’s normal — the mind tries to generate a way to avoid future pain based on similar circumstances. Unfortunately, when you form such a belief, you are setting yourself up to experience more of the same. If your expectation is that you live in a cruel world, life will confirm that for you. Be vigilant, and when a negative belief starts to form, reframe it in a positive way. Instead of “Life is cruel,” perhaps “Life is showing me just how strong I am.”
3. You Learn Positive Lessons about Yourself
Another spiritual truth is that everything happens for a reason. As I’ve said, however, your perception of that reason is up to you. You can choose to see the “blessing” in a blessing in disguise as a positive lesson about your character. You may discover that you are more resourceful or courageous than you thought, or you may learn how powerful your words and actions are when you feel just how much you have hurt another person.
When you can reframe an event as a “blessing in disguise” instead of a calamity, you are learning about your capacity to handle adversity. When you avoid the episode as a tragedy and see it as a life lesson, with the universe as your teacher, you are already deepening your connection to the part of you that has a deeper wisdom about life. You can call that part of you awareness, resilience, your intuition or even your soul.
The moment you look for the lesson, the situation often begins to resolve itself. That is because so much of the pain comes from resisting the situation, wishing it weren’t happening. When you open to its lesson, the wisdom it has to offer you, you shift to accepting that the situation is there in your life. You stop pushing it away. The next time something happens to you that wish hadn’t happened or seems bad, ask yourself what life might be trying to teach you and what kind of response would suggest that you’re more capable of facing it than you believe. As you develop a sense of what the lesson might be, you will be able to see the entire episode as part of a larger story of your spiritual evolution.
4. You Take Responsibility for Your Life
The painful response to seemingly negative events often positions us as victims — why did this happen to me? You see this outside event as an attack on you. When you reframe an event as a “blessing in disguise,” you are learning the important lesson that you and only you are responsible for how you meet life.
Responsibility doesn’t mean you try to fix everyone or that everything is your “fault.” You and you alone are responsible, however, for how you respond to a situation, particularly your emotional response. Do you fall into a pit of despair, blaming the world and angry at God or everyone else? Or do you face it, accept it as it is without judging it as bad or good, reframe it as a challenge, and look for a deeper lesson?
As part of that response, you may also need to take responsibility in the more traditional sense. If your actions contributed to the situation, do what you can to help fix it. It can be painful to acknowledge that we are part of the cause. But once you do take steps to repair the situation, you’ll find that your own effort to take responsibility affirms your capacity to meet any situation with integrity. The situation offers you to opportunity to recognize your own power.
5. You Develop Gratitude & Equanimity
Tragic events often teach us to be grateful for our lives because they force us to recognize just how unpredictable, wonderful, and fragile our lives can be. Many people have suffered life-threatening health issues or financial disaster — tragedies that later gave them a newfound appreciation for life. Finding the blessings in disguise develops your capacity for gratitude by keeping you open to its possibility where you don’t expect it.
As you cultivate gratitude for your past experiences by seeing them as blessings, you develop a new skill: You learn react to new events with equanimity, knowing that in a short while, you can look at this latest episode and realize that it was not nearly as bad as you originally thought. Knowing that the blessing will soon emerge from its painful disguise allows you to handle your emotional turmoil more easily.
This isn’t a call to short-circuit or avoid your pain by rushing to gratitude. You can’t force the blessing or lesson to emerge. There’s no wisdom in avoiding the pain. But you can learn to remain balanced in the face of that pain. Having a catalogue of events that turned out to be pivotal and positive moments for you — your own list of blessings in disguise — can foster a sense of balance when you face the next challenge life sends your way.
6. You Realize that Your Entire Life Is a Blessing
Perhaps the greatest realization happens after you’ve practiced for a while: No blessing is disguised. When you’ve developed this mindset, you stop perceiving events as calamities or tragedies. You start to cultivate the sense that what happens in your life is often for your highest good. That doesn’t mean you no longer experience pain or struggle or even failure. But the blessings were there all along. The disguise was the creation of your own mind, which responded out of fear and saw only negativity. By practicing finding the blessings that life has presented you, you shed that fear, and new changes become a portal to appreciating the possibility that your current challenge is a gift to be cherished.