There’s a Celtic legend that before we incarnate and drop down to earth, we spend some pre-mortal time in a cosmic waiting room. All fluffy and white and spacious-like. I think they have Guinness on tap.
And while we’re waiting for our next turn on earth, we have to choose the challenges that we want to contend with, in our lifetime to come. Poor eyesight? Weak arches? Chronic depression? An insatiable need for recognition & praise? Acne? Asthma? Anxiety? Egomania? Insomnia? Lactose intolerance? Abandonment? Unspeakable loss? Grief? Paralyzing doubt?
As the story goes :: we choose our challenges with discernment. We choose them with certainty. And we choose them because–evolutionarily speaking–we’re ready to handle them.
But before we take the big leap down to Mama Gaia, an angel presses her finger between the tip of our nose and the top of our lips, creating a little dip (feel it?). And with that dip (plot twist!) our memories are erased. We fall to earth, with our challenges self-assigned–but we have forgotten what we chose. We are living, breathing Tabula Rasas. ‘Cause where’s the fun in omniscience?
I first heard this story from Grace, my favorite Welsh Witch, on a Tuesday morning Skype chat. She compared the process of choosing your challenges to selecting your university courses, before the first day of class.
“I like to say that I chose the accelerated PhD program in challenges,” she giggled. At 23 years old, Grace is living with advanced osteoporosis, among other physical struggles — though she adamantly rebukes the “sick chick” label (way too limiting, and woefully inaccurate), preferring to call herself a wellness “trail blazer” (now that’s more like it!).
Approaching your challenges as if you CHOSE them flips the whole notion of suffering on its ear. And while it’s just one possible lens through which to view our very complicated world, it is — in my opinion — a very empowering stance.
It’s not a disaster–it’s the soul-stretch you selected.
It’s not a set-back–it’s the empathy-accelerator you asked for.
It’s not a consequence–it’s the cloaked reward you custom-ordered.
It’s not your worst-case scenario–it’s the cleansing bonfire you pleaded for. The one that burns the way to greater wisdom, service & serenity. The one you chose with good reason, because, well… maybe you had your reasons.
“But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration
To let the next life off the hook
But she’ll say look what I had to overcome from my last life
I think I’ll write a book.”
–Indigo Girls, “Galileo”