What If There Really Are No Mistakes?

I doubt there is anyone among us who has not experienced grief or loss in one aspect or another. Last week, my guest blogger, Uma Girish, shared some of her journey through grief in healing from her mother’s death. Because of the pain and suffering she experienced over the loss of her mother, she was able to find a deep personal transformation. She offered the perspective of Rev. Michael Beckwith who said “Crisis ignites evolution” as resonant of her own experience now that she has come out on the other side of her grief and found her joy again.

Her story reminds me of the notion that I have been sitting with for quite some time now. What if there are no mistakes? What if everything that happens to us and that continues to unfold in our lives, even the events that we judge to be bad, traumatic or wrong, are really here to awaken us to our own personal journey of transformation? What if everything, including death, is really a catalyst for our own evolution?

I believe this to be true of my abortion and subsequent miscarriage many years ago. Those events triggered a personal crisis for me that literally compelled me to make a choice between life and death. Sometimes we need a calamity of remarkable significance in our lives to motivate us to change. The experience of shame, pain and grief were unquestionably the impetus for my own personal transformation.

Brene Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly, about an interview she had with Peter Sheahan, the CEO of ChangeLabs, a global consultancy firm. Based on his experience, he believes that “The secret killer of innovation is shame.” It makes people afraid to speak up, to take risks, to be truly creative.

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where we don’t have to rely on a disastrous event happening in order to evolve: a world where we are allowed to feel our pain, shame and other difficult emotions and then leave them in the past for good.

I read recently about the Babemba tribe in Africa that takes a unique approach to handling “mistakes” within the tribe. Rather than punishing or shaming the person, they surround him or her in a circle of their entire community. They would then take turns sharing their observations of all the positive attributes of that individual. Rather than tearing them apart, they build-up that person’s self-esteem, reminding them of all the goodness they hold inside of them.

I wonder what a different world this would be if we could adopt that practice on a larger scale. What if there are no mistakes, only goodness in each one of us? Think about how quickly we could cycle through the elements of fear and shame that hold us back from fully living our potential.

For women who have had an abortion, this shift in mindset would enable them to feel and express their emotions freely and authentically, without fear of judgment. They might then begin to see their experience with curiosity and explore the potential of it for their own personal growth, rather than using their energy to keep hidden this part of their past.

What a radical thought: to accept all of ourselves and our behavior as part of an experience of transformation.

Just like the Babemba Tribe, I think we might just find a more beautiful world…



Walking Through the Fire of Grief

My guest blogger today is Uma Girish. Uma is a Grief Guide, Dream Coach and award-winning author. Her eBook “Understanding Death: 10 Ways to Inner Peace for the Grieving” is available on Amazon and iTunes. She hosts a weekly radio show for the Creating Calm Network called The Grammar of Grief. You can find her archived shows at

When my beloved Amma (mother) transitioned on January 27, 2009, my world went dark in one terrifying instant. After wallowing in the Why’s for weeks—why me, why this, why now—pinpricks of light began to penetrate the darkness. Slowly, realization dawned on me that I had to change my vocabulary. In fact, I had to learn a whole new language.

Surrender. Acceptance. Purpose. Meaning. And, finally, I could begin to taste true Joy.

Moving forward was impossible without acceptance. Amma died. I had to swallow those words, digest them and make them a part of my very being. This wasn’t about punishment. It wasn’t about being singled out by an angry God. It was simply about being on a human journey where duality is reality: light/dark, sadness/happiness, life/death. 

I surrendered to the pain of grief. I allowed myself to be a vessel for feelings to wash through: sadness, hurt, envy, resentment. I felt them all at different times along the grief journey.

When I entered deeply into the experience of loss, I knew in the deepest part of my being that it was inextricably linked to my purpose. My transformation was impossible without this event. “Crisis ignites evolution” says Michael Bernard Beckwith in his book Life Visioning. This was my crisis, my butterfly-emerging-from-the-cocoon moment.

I’d walked through the fire of loss. I was changed when I came out the other side. I could never go back to being who I used to be. And, on some levels, I don’t even want to. Transformation brings with it gifts, but only if we’re open to receiving them. You have to open the doors of your heart and allow complicated feelings in—loss, fear, sadness, pain and abandonment. Joy lives alongside them. How much joy you experience is directly dependent on how much pain you allow yourself to feel.

Inside every painful experience lives meaning. It’s the only reason we have pain in this life. We can let pain stop us in our tracks, or venture boldly into the exploration “How is this death relevant to my journey? What am I meant to do with this pain?”

When I discovered the answers to those questions, my pain alchemized into purpose. From that place was born my Chapter Two. My twin loves, teaching and writing, had more depth, meaning and passion. I was lit up every time I was asked to share my experience of loss—as I’m feeling this moment, writing these words. That is the purpose of my pain. To reach out a hand and connect with you. To let you know that you’re not alone. To help heal your heavy heart as a fellow soul-traveler.

One thin strand of light is all it takes to pierce the blackness. Allow your soul to welcome the transformation. Your life matters—no matter how deep your pain. Your life has meaning—if you look for it inside your heart. Your life is not about you—but the lives of everyone you touch.

To buy Uma's transformational memoir “Losing Amma, Finding Home: A Memoir About Love, Loss and Life’s Detours” published by Hay House, visit

A Leap of Faith and Counting Stars (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about the first part of my family’s experience of being involved in a student exchange program. Witnessing a 15 year old young man coming into an unknown culture reminded me of how courageous we can be, and how amazing the spirit of our children is. For Gilad, and then for my daughter, to fly literally across the world to live with people they have never met, where the language is not their own, and where they have no one but themselves to fall back on, is an incredible act of guts and strength. Although my daughter knew Gilad when she left for Israel, she only knew a handful of words in Hebrew. To top it all off, she was raised in the Catholic religion and therefore lacked much knowledge of the Israeli religious or cultural background. As with Gilad six months before, I was awed by her “chutzpah” in making this journey.

There are so many experiences that I’d love to share from her two and a half months in Israel. The culture of community and connection between the people of Israel was far deeper and more authentic than anything she had experienced in the United States. For the most part, she has been fortunate enough to have been in a small school environment from a very young age, and for most of her life has had very tight neighborhood bonds. But in Israel, she was able to experience a different type of community with the children and the adults, where there was a profound respectfulness shown to each other. Honoring the connection between young and old was easier and more fluid than what she had experienced so far in her life here. By being honored for who she was, she developed a greater confidence in herself and learned exactly what she wanted and deserved in her relationships. 

Her host family consisted of two working parents and their three children. They are a busy family, and yet there always seemed to be enough time to support and guide the children in their schoolwork and other interests. The children learn self-sufficiency at an early age, but as a means of empowerment, not as a necessity or from neglect by their parents. 

Her host father also happened to be her teacher at school. Because of the dual role he had in her life, she was able to connect with him on a daily basis for a good amount of time. 

Over the course of the next two and a half months, my daughter developed a relationship with her host father that nourished her soul in a way it had not been nourished in a long time. I had forgotten how important a relationship between fathers and daughters is in the development of a girl. Watching my boys find their way without the affirmation of a father on a daily basis, I had lost touch with the feminine side of me that needed my father’s love and attention when I was growing up.

There seems to be so much attention put upon mothers in our society today when it comes to parenting issues. And yet, in my experience, there is no substitute for the presence of a father in our children’s lives. A mother cannot duplicate that role no matter how hard she tries.

The way a father shows up for his daughter(s) shows her what to demand of a man in a relationship. If her father treats her with disdain, disinterest, or abuse, that is what she will come to see as normal and accept into her life as she grows older. BUT, if he treats her with honor and respect, she will instead come to expect that from her future relationships.

My daughter came home from Israel with a sense of self and worthiness that I had not seen in her since she was in early elementary school. The self-esteem she exuded was palpable long before she got home. Her host father gave her the attention, honor, and respect from a father-figure that she had been so sorely missing for many years. She now has a clearer example in her head of who she is and not just what she will accept, but what she should expect in relationship.

As Father’s Day approaches this weekend in the United States, I cannot say thank you enough to our new Israeli family, but most especially to her host father, Avi, for the love and tenderness he showed towards Megan. I believe it does take a village to raise a child. Ours just happens to be a global one now!


A Leap of Faith and Counting Stars (Part One)

It was barely a year ago when my (then) tenth grade daughter expressed her deep and sincere interest to do an exchange program with a student from another country. She had talked about this desire before, but as a single mom in a relatively new area of the country, I didn’t feel remotely prepared for having a fourth child to be responsible for in our home. But last summer, when it came up again, without so much as a second thought, I said “Yeah, okay. Let’s figure it out.”

And thus began a journey of meeting new "family" members that has changed our lives.
My daughter’s school does exchange programs on a regular basis, so it was relatively easy to find an exchange student. Spain, Argentina, and Israel were the immediate choices as participating countries in the program. As Israel quickly became the most viable option, friends and family would ask me how I could consider letting my daughter go there and was I aware of how much violence there was in “that part of the world.” I don’t know how I knew everything would be fine, but I did. From the beginning, this felt like the right place for her to go and I had absolutely no worries about it. Not one. Ever.

My new “son”, Gilad, came to us first, less than two months later to stay for three and a half months. I still remember meeting this tired, unshaven, guitar toting young man at the airport. Just like a mother instantly knows her baby when it is born, we knew immediately that he was “ours” as he walked through security.
His presence brought so many wonderful things to our family. My boys, a ninth and third grader respectively, loved him. A common connection among boys is sports, and soccer, basketball, and swimming became the language for instant friendship between the three of them. My youngest son joined a basketball team this year, and I am sure it was due solely to the personal coaching and encouragement he got from his new "brother".

All of my kids were amazed by how easily new skills came to Gilad. While he was here, he decided to learn how to do a back flip and within 30 minutes had taught himself how do to it on our front yard. When my older son asked him how he did that, he replied “I don’t know. I just believe that I can do it, and I can.”

Out of the mouths of babes . . .
One day, a new Jewish friend taught me the word, “bracha”, which means blessing in Hebrew. I was excited to tell Gilad I had learned some Hebrew. He said, “Oh, yes, that is a good word. I do this every morning.” I was curious so I asked for more information from him. He told me every morning before he gets out of bed, he gives blessings for what he has been given. He blesses the air he breathes, the ground beneath his feet, the clothes on his back. He blesses life itself and is so grateful to choose to live it each day. His list goes on.  The stunning thing for me to see as he told me this about his practice was that this 15 year old boy was deeply connected to this ritual, and truly felt a deep appreciation for the things he shared with me. Living in a culture of “whoever has the most toys wins”, I was in awe of his sincerity and belief.

He loved music and one thing I miss is the sound of his guitar strumming in the evenings. He taught himself to play the OneRepublic song, “Counting Stars” while he was here. He used the internet to learn the chords and practiced over and over until he got it right. In learning this song, just like learning to back flip, he taught us that if we put our minds to it, we can do anything.

I wondered for most of his time here what he was receiving from living with us. It was soccer season here, and between school, practices, and games for the three different teams the kids all played on, there wasn’t much time to explore California. School was very different here than it was back home and that was very frustrating to him. I knew he missed home terribly and in fact, there were times when I thought he might leave early.
He did stay until the end as planned. I wondered what he brought home with him from his experience. His father tells me that he sees a new, more mature and accepting young man. He is more content with his life and has a new sense of calmness about him. He tells his father how grateful he was to have been able to live in California. And I imagine there is some sense of gratitude for having his father in his life, as he lived here in a household without one for the first time in his life.

It’s amazing to me to think about our new ties to Israel. It is a country 8,000 miles from us, and misunderstood by many in the world. Despite the warnings of those around us, the bonds forged between our two families were deep and immediate. Gilad’s father and I agree that our children have chosen us, and we are both profoundly grateful for their choosing. Our children, whether by blood or spirit, born or unborn, have so much to share with us when we relax and open our hearts.

In next week’s post, I will share how my daughter’s experience living in Israel gave her soul the nourishment she so deeply needed.