“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” – Buddha

Concept or conceptual wood cross or religion symbol shape over aThere’s certainly no shortage of experiences in the world. In fact, each of us has dozens of them every day. Some, of course, are more memorable than others. Some cause us pain, contribute to anxiety, worsen a sense of depression and sadness. Some are easily accepted, while others linger with perhaps more negative emotions than we’d like. Yet each of these experiences is valuable and each experience contains a blessing. How so? Consider the following:

Experience teaches.

We learn from doing, even if that lesson is what not to do the next time. If you burn your fingers picking up a skillet handle, you immediately feel the pain and remember to use a pot holder or towel when you attempt to do this again. When something great happens, this experience also teaches a worthwhile lesson. We know we’ve been fortunate enough to encounter, benefit from and remember something good for us.

Everyone has experiences — why not use them?

Instead of sleepwalking through the day, going on autopilot and having no sense of place or time, tune into the moment. Really feel and be present in what you’re doing. Whatever it is — making coffee, getting ready for the day, driving to work, shopping for groceries, running errands, stopping off for a yoga class, or walking during lunch — inhabit every part of the action or activity. Take notice of how your body feels, the rhythmic cadence of your breathing, the sights and sounds and touch of things around you. This is making use of your experience — and it will fill you with an appreciation of life.

How to see experiences as blessings.

OK, so we can get behind the lesson that experience teaches and we all have experiences, so we’ll try to use them. How can we begin to see experiences as blessings, particularly those painful experiences that we’re desperate to forget? Shouldn’t we try to get past those as quickly as possible?

Think for a moment about who we are today and how we got here. Not in the sense of physical movement but in terms of the choices we’ve made. What we’ve done is a result of deliberate and conscious choice on our part. We are a product of our actions, our experiences. Whether the experience was good or bad, it shapes us. In this is a hidden blessing. Going back to the burnt fingers from a hot skillet, the experience, while painful, taught us a valuable lesson: don’t do that again. It also allows us to be grateful we are alive and able to go on, albeit with a sore finger. Sometimes pain brings us back to the present like nothing else. Voila, a blessing.

Mostly, though, the blessings inherent in experience are more transparent. We get a good grade or receive kudos from the boss on a project well-done and this translates into something better. Digging in the garden to plant seeds, bulbs or transplant flowers or shrubs yields an immediate blessing: beauty, a sense of accomplishment, a transformed setting. Talking with a loved one who’s traveling, visiting a sick friend to bring some cheer — these are also experiences rich with blessings.

Attitude and perception matter.

For some, moving from a negative world view to one that’s more positive, open and hopeful requires profound transformation. It may seem too difficult, too uncertain, too fraught with potential problems. With such a mindset, the easier route is to keep going like you always do. Yet, this way of negative thinking and approaching life does little good and can do much harm. It robs you of joy, lulls you into complacency and a sense that you’re powerless to do anything else, and tends to perpetuate negativity so that what you think bad will happen does happen.

Here’s where attitude and perception matter. You can make the shift from seeing experiences as just something else to tolerate or get through, or you can gradually veer toward a more hopeful, positive and open approach. It may take some time, but the results will be worth whatever effort it takes.

For now, think about the actions you took today, the experiences you had from the time you got up. What about them made you smile, enriched your life, made you feel fulfilled? There’s a blessing in each one of them. All you need to do is look for it.