It’s Not Happening To You, It’s Happening For You

Do not be so quick to change it, without first letting it change you. Whatever feels unacceptable, whatever brings you past your edge or incites resistance may be an opening to move into a more authentic way of being. Whether it’s a physical symptom, an emotional flare like anger or anxiety, or a persistent unfulfilled longing—your very aliveness is nestled at its root waiting to be discovered more deeply. To change it, without first letting it change you, is to miss the point, is to mistrust the movement of life, is to negate a powerful message that’s bubbling up from source itself.

It’s natural to seek pleasure and avoid pain but it’s so deeply ingrained in us that our seeking can take precedence over attending to what’s actually happening in the moment. We begin to lose our ability to lean in, listen, soften into life, and trust the flow of what shows up. We’re taught to believe, for example, that illness should be avoided, fled from or fixed and we miss the opportunity to heed the wisdom of what’s arising in our bodies, and to be changed by symptoms that are custom-made for our awakening.

There is a rightness to things, my friends, even the things that seem most wrong. I believe in an inherent rightness, a divine intelligence that flows through all things. We are barometers for truth—these minds and bodies are expressions of life in their own right, outside all of our agendas, preconceived notions, and ideas of how things should be.

We should of course, do everything we can to alleviate suffering, but often our resistance to ‘what is’ causes more suffering than the thing we’re resisting.

When I first fell ill, the story that I made up about being sick kept me from receiving its message, it’s wisdom, and its gifts. I was convinced that the symptoms were a sign that something had gone terribly wrong, proof that I was flawed somehow, a sure indication that I had fallen from grace, or was being punished. This story led to resistance, fear, and frenzy—we all know this frenzy—the racing thoughts, the zany googling, the going to and fro’ to try to fix it or make it go away. It was exhausting.

Something happened as the days, weeks, and then months of this wore on—I wore myself out. I simply could not keep pace with this merry-go-round, I ran out of steam, and then landed flat on my face where I would stay…for years. The weight of the symptoms became too heavy to muscle against, I had to give in. The emotional ramifications that initially came through like tidal waves become inescapable as years of unprocessed emotional debris came up in my now-available attention.

I had to stop running and feel.

The more I showed up and held space for my own discomfort the more the turbulence settled like waves smoothing into a still lake where I could spend the afternoons watching ripples. I still went to doctor’s appointments, took supplements, and continued with all that needed to be done for my healing but I finally surrendered because I didn’t have the energy needed to resist. Or at least, I had bigger and bigger moments of surrender amidst the gritting, and fixating, and contriving that would still come up.

I was finally letting myself be changed by this experience. I was letting it affect me because its’ force was bigger than my ability to resist it, or keep it at bay. I had to stop making it wrong, pushing it away, and start listening to what was right about its presence in my life. Much to my surprise, this horrible catastrophe came with gifts from grace that actually felt like love when I stopped fighting it.

The experience took me somewhere deep, somewhere beyond anything I had previously known when I felt like I was in control.

I learned to dwell in presence, to reside at the pilot light of my essence because my brain could no longer process reality. I would rest with earplugs in my ears and an eye mask over my eyes and I would let myself drift in what I came to call ‘the abyss’—a space of presence and sensation that took me out beyond myself into a galaxy of consciousness and possibility. There was a tender beauty there. I let these unrelenting symptoms have me—that person I mistook myself to be—the yoga teacher, the dancer, the social butterfly, the pretty one, the cool one, the smart one.

I finally bit-by-bit sacrificed her into the fire of transformation.

I learned to drop the façade, the personality, the masks, because I had to stick to essentials just to survive the day. Sometimes I’d get scared when I looked in the mirror—Who was this person looking back at me? Would she make it? There was no way to know for sure. That vulnerable unknown softened me, it cracked me open, it got me connected to what mattered most, and it got me in touch with my heart.

I had to suspend all stories to conserve the little energy I had left. I learned to stop relying on my mind as my own thoughts started making me nauseous. I began to rely on my felt sense of something deeper. I lived in suspended animation, nestled at my essence, safe only in the present moment—everything outside the immediacy of now was way too much to take-on and was rendered irrelevant anyway by a brain that could no longer compute it. I faced my death lying there and spent afternoons peering over the edge of my existence, adrift, floating in the unseen, no longer able to participate in the visible world.

What I know now is that I was being entrained to presence. I was put in a mandatory incubation tank of presence-awareness, like a sensory deprivation tank, or like a silent retreat that lasts for years on end. I simply could not live through an undergoing of this magnitude and not be changed, not wake-up somehow. I couldn’t survive this without residing in what was most true, most real, most enduring.

I carry this gift with me now.

This is the beauty of whatever is unrelenting in your life—it can take you out beyond yourself—the self you take yourself to be—if you let it, and into a more profound truth of who and what you are. It’s totally natural to go kicking and screaming, to resist at every turn, I know I did.

There’s a reason why a head cold probably won’t transform you but persistent conditions have the ability to change you. Persistent conditions are anything that keep asking for attention in your life. Discomfort is a summons for your presence, for your attention. The more uncomfortable you feel the greater the need for your attention.

In the end, I feel that I was given more than I had taken away, and my health situation cost me basically everything I had. I threw my whole life and sense of self in a sacrificial fire of healing. If I can find gifts in what I lived, as catastrophic as it was on many levels, I know it’s possible for you too with whatever you’re living through. Sometimes the Universe sends us some really tough love to wake us up—but no matter how tough it feels, I believe that it is of love.

I don’t know what you are being ushered towards, what blueprint is stirring in your soul. Only the mystery has those answers and only you have the ability to live into your own unfolding, your awakening, your own destiny.

Your willingness and your receptivity, your curiosity and ability to allow for what is, are key.

If you’re willing to go deeper into whatever is showing up for you, if you’re beginning to suspect that there’s more to your situation than meets the eye, if you’d like to explore ‘what is’ – even for a few moments—instead of continuing to push it away, or ‘fix it’ here are some questions to get you started.

photo credit: Megan and Erin Powell for Centered Within

photo credit: Megan and Erin Powell for Centered Within


I invite you to take some time to linger here and write in your journal. There are no right or wrong answers. I recommend keeping your pen moving and jotting down absolutely anything that comes up without question or criticism. Words, phrases, images… Answer the questions below that compel you.

First, write the thing—the damn thing, that won’t leave you be (examples could be: physical symptoms like persistent pain, emotional distress like grief/anger/anxiety, life situations like mounting debt or being chronically lonely) Whatever bothers you the most probably holds the richest treasure for you.

Here are the questions:

  • What is this situation or condition asking of me? How is it stretching or growing me?

  • Who does this situation want me to become?

  • What qualities am I developing as a result of what I’m living?

  • What is this situation or condition nudging me towards or away from?

  • How might this situation be happening for me and not to me?

  • Could there be something ‘right’ about this that I’m just not getting yet? What might that rightness be?

May these ideas plant seeds of peace, insight, and clarity in your world.

Words: Copyright © 2018 Marie-Ève Bonnea



If you’d like additional guidance or support in applying these ideas to your own lived experience, I offer One-on-One Sessions via telephone or Skype. These sessions are a safe space to explore, ask the big questions, and to experience compassionate connection and support with someone who has lived through a similar experience as the one you may be having. It is my greatest honour to support you on your healing journey.