Create Your Own Meaning

One of my most inspiring teachers, Coby Kozlowski, offers this modern riff on the concept of karma: “Life happens. You create the meaning,” which contrasts with the traditionally passive understanding that the reason things happen in our lives is due to actions taken in previous lifetimes.

As I tended to the obstacles (mostly mental and self-created) in the path of pursuing my long-held dream of running my own business, I was inundated with literal bird imagery: struck on the shoulder with a blue jay feather; blue jay feathers appearing randomly at my feet; a dead bird directly on the path of my bike route; a cacophony of incensed birds announcing another dead bird on my lawn during my morning meditation, only to find it gone 15 minutes later; and the particularly disturbing blue jay flying into my house with a shattering thud and landing dead at the door of my garage.

As befits a (recovering) Type A, I began a frantic google search on the meaning of blue jays and dead birds. At first buoyed by soothing shamanistic descriptions of blue jays symbolizing wisdom and healing, and signifying coming into one’s power and using it for good in the world, 3 dead birds too many, I began to just see death. And then the fog of fear and worry that the Universe was trying to tell me my business would fail, and not to even bother trying, settled over me.

Ultimately, I chose to create my own meaning. To remember that every beginning has an ending preceding it, and view the dead birds as a harbinger of new life. An older, fearful, hesitant incarnation of me “dying” so that a stronger, more courageous version could emerge.

And so we can all choose. The myriad circumstances of life over which we have no control will continue to be laid at our feet. But how we respond is always within our control, as is what we choose to believe. In her poem, “The World I Live In,” Mary Oliver writes: “I have refused to live locked in the orderly house of reasons and proofs. The world I live in and believe in is wider than that. And anyway, what’s wrong with ​Maybe​?” Indeed, there is no way to prove whether the meaning you ascribe to your life events is correct. Create an interpretation which lifts your spirits, illuminates your best self, and makes you want to shout with joy at the knowledge that the Universe has your back. For “only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.” M.O.


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