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Why Bad Things Happen

An excerpt from Living in the Now
living in the nowIt would be more accurate to say “things happen” than “bad things happen.” There is a world of difference between those two statements. The first one is true, and the second one is a story told by the ego. Bad, after all, is a concept; it doesn’t exist. We can’t touch it, hear it, see it, or even sense it in any way. Bad is an idea that egos can generally agree on, but that doesn’t make that concept true or real. That is the problem with consensus reality: What is accepted as true often isn’t, but seeing things otherwise can be challenging.

There is hardly anything more pervasive in consensus reality than the concept of good/bad. It is the ego’s primary judgment—something is either good or bad, usually in relationship to me. That is how the ego sees the world. The fact that everyone else who is ego identified also sees the world this way doesn’t make it true. So when people ask why bad things happen, it’s a trick question. It presumes bad things are happening and, in truth, they aren’t—things are happening.

What underlies the question of why bad things happen is the belief that bad things shouldn’t happen or, more truthfully, that “things I don’t like shouldn’t happen to me,” which is an egocentric point of view. Things happen, and they happen to everyone. What the ego is really concerned about is not that bad things happen to other people, but that bad things happen to me and those close to me. It is a rare individual who suffers over bad things happening to others, and those who do so are probably too busy serving others to be suffering themselves.

“Bad things happening to me” is a problem for the ego, and it’s angry about it. “Bad things happening” ruins its plans, its goals, its dreams, its self-image, its idea of invincibility. Bad things happening is definitely a problem for the ego, which would like to pretend it has life under control, even if other people don’t. “Bad things happening to me” is the ego’s nemesis because it lays bare the truth: The ego isn’t all powerful and able to make life go as it would like. This is very bad news for the ego, perhaps even worse than the "bad" thing that happened.

What isn’t seen by the ego is that its very judgment of good and bad creates the suffering, not actual circumstances or events. Many have discovered this secret in the midst of difficult circumstances. They have seen that their attitude and perspective make all the difference in how they manage during challenging times. There is no doubt that life can be very difficult, uncomfortable, painful, exhausting, lonely, frightening, or sad. However, life is never bad, which would imply that life is inherently flawed or evil. Challenging circumstances and events aren’t evil or a mistake, but just part of life. They even serve a purpose in making us stronger and wiser and bringing us back in touch with our true nature. But even if challenges didn’t do that, this is just the way it is. Difficulties are neither punishment nor a means of persecuting us. They aren’t personal.

Everyone has his or her share of unpleasant and challenging circumstances, and over all of our lifetimes, everyone’s share is about the same. However, some people manage challenges better than others, and that is what is in our hands. While we may have no choice about what happens to us, we do have a choice about how we respond to it. We can respond in ways that cause others and ourselves more suffering or in ways that don’t. We can learn from our trials or not. It’s up to us. Some choices yield much better results than others. Most of the suffering on earth is caused by egos hurting others and themselves by making unwise choices, and the rest of the suffering is caused by egos responding negatively to the challenges of life.

The ego causes suffering and the experience of “this is bad.” Without that story, life just is the way it is. People are the way they are. They do what they do. Illness happens, aging happens, death happens, destruction happens, mistakes happen, loss happens. These experiences are part of life. Without these challenges, life on earth wouldn’t be life on earth, but some other experience. This is the way it is here.

Accepting that this is the way life is for everyone, not just you, is the way out of suffering. Accepting life just as it is and then doing the best you can with it, making the most loving choice in every moment, will turn a so-called bad event into a fruitful one. We all are master alchemists—we have the power to transform our experience of life by how we respond to the things we can’t change. There is much about life we can’t change, but when we respond with love and kindness, miracles happen: Bad things become good. We can learn to see life from the perspective of the Oneness, which has created all of it and sees it all as good. And so it is.

Tags: awakening, peace, happiness, audiobook, nondualiy

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