Posted on September 6, 2013



Do you know what happens in a rural village in India when a child is born with more than two arms and legs?

I found this out a few years ago when my husband was reading a Telugu newspaper online. G. was intently focusing on this article written in his native language (which looks like a bunch of rounded out hieroglyphics and I have no idea how to decipher any of them). I looked over his shoulder and saw a picture of a newborn baby boy with three arms. The rest of his body was wrapped in a muslin cloth. He was sleeping in the arms of his small, thin mother and they were surrounded by a bunch of other rural people. “They’re worshipping him as a deity,” my husband told me.

Have you ever seen a picture of a Hindu god? They’ve all got a bunch of arms and legs, which really makes a lot sense when you think about it. I’m sure a god has a lot to do, so of course he would need to have more limbs than your average human.

This baby boy is born with three arms and the people of this poor, tiny village in the outskirts of nowhere are thinking that he may be an incarnation of a god. That’s all they’ve ever known-that more than two limbs means a god-so of course that’s what they believe. Had this happened in a big city in India or in America, they would not be saying this kid is a deity. They would be saying this kid is deformed.

I’m wondering how this boy’s life is going to turn out. Looks like they’re leaving the third arm. The people of his village believe that he is special and a sign that God is blessing their town with his presence. They believe the boy being born with more than average limbs happened for a reason. That this was all meant to be. What’s his life going to be like, I wonder, with everyone believing that he’s sacred?

A very, very dear friend of mine likes to say this a lot: Everything happens for a reason. When she says it to me about my life’s disappointments, I just smile and nod. She means well, her intentions are good, but the truth is that we have completely different views of reality and sometimes it’s just kinder to pretend to agree.

Years and years of meditation has yielded me really only two, basic insights. The first one is that things don’t happen for a reason. Things just happen. And we assign the reasons. The boy with three arms? Whether he’s a deity or deformed is a matter of perspective. The reasoning assigned to this particular situation is a personal choice.

Right now, I am waist-high in paperwork. Not to be crass here, people, but I would love about three arms right now.

When you decide to adopt a child, there’s a ton of stuff that has to be done before you’ll even be considered as an option for a birth mother. It’s kinda like applying to grad school on steroids. All of these forms have to be filled out, lists must be checked off, you gotta get copies of bank statements, marriage licenses, birth certificates, references and oh my god. That’s just the start of it. There is tons and tons of paperwork.

So they give you this manual. At least the adoption agency my husband and I have chosen give you this manual and its purpose is to give you an abbreviated summary of the entire adoption process. A big picture overview. Just the basics.

The manual is 100 pages long.

I’ve read the entire thing from start to finish. There’s a section near the end about what happens sometimes in an adoption. About how sometimes the birth mother picks you, tells you that you are the one! and then goes and changes her mind. So, the manual says, when your birth mother tells you that she’s chosen you and she’s having a baby girl, don’t go painting that room pink and throwing yourself a baby shower. Because sometimes the adoption falls through. That sometimes things don’t work out. But in the end, the manual states, you will see that it all happened for a reason. That it was all meant to be.

There it is again. This adage people seem to cling to when things don’t go as planned.

But here’s the second thing I’ve learned after years and years of meditating. There is definitely, without a doubt, something bigger than our small human selves. I’ve felt it. I’ve witnessed it. In what can only be called some kind of  trippy, mystical experience, several times, I’ve felt what it feels like to not be me. Or to be more than me. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It feels like being connected to everything and everyone simultaneously. Like everything really is perfect.

You know that thing you hear in yoga class a lot? The thing about how we all are one? That’s exactly what it’s  like. And during those times, my small, little, ego-centered perspective is demolished. I am filled with love. I see and honor everyone because in that moment I truly understand that everyone is me. All reflect back to me who I am.

This state of awesome awareness doesn’t last long. Something happens and I’m back in my regular self, with a much different, less generous and less loving perspective of the world. I’m back in the world where things are just happening and I am assigning them reasons for happening based on the mood I’m in at the moment.

Here’s the thing, though, the truth that I’ve come to recently. I always choose my reasons. I get to choose my perspective. And that makes me very uncomfortable.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of accountability. Yes, I’m a life coach and all, and I can talk until the cows come home about shifting perspectives and making wise choices but to continuously do this in my own life is quite another matter. I want someone else to tell me what to believe, what is true, how I should be, what I should do. I don’t want all of this responsibility.

Yet it’s mine to shoulder. Because this is my life. At the end of the day, I’m the one who has to decide what it’s all about. I’m the one who has to choose what I’m going to believe and how I’m going to see things.

And things will continue to happen. Will they be divine interventions? Will they be accidents? What will my reasons be? What will my reason-ing be?

In the words of Mary Oliver, I want to say something even more uncomfortable than that. I want to say that I get to choose whether I see who I am and who others are as sacred or deformed. I certainly don’t think one is right and one is wrong. Way too many Buddhist teachings in my spiritual practice to go down that erroneous path of judgment.

I just know that one feels better. One feels more like what could be true. I’m just not sure if I’m brave enough to choose it.