“You don’t get life right. Life gets you right.”
In the book Wisdom, Apprenticing to the Unknown and Befriending Fate, Paul Dunion explains his philosophy of life. Which might best be summed up by the two sentences you see above in bold type. According to Dunion, getting things right in your life comes down to a matter of fate—and how you choose to deal with it.
Until I picked up Wisdom, I had never heard of Dunion who is now in his early-70s and is described on his website as a “healer, teacher, author, and eclectic mystic.” But in the foreword to the book, no less than the sage of the soul, Thomas Moore, calls himself “an apprentice to Paul’s mastery.” Moore tips-off where the book is headed, writing:
I see a human life as a response to invitations and opportunities. I imagine that each life is a long series of turning points, rites of passage. If you say yes to life, you move along toward wisdom.
What is fate?
Dunion defines fate as “the will of the gods.” He explains that “fate is all you encounter; it is the people, places, and events that constitute your outward experience.” We can try to steer fate (the want of the ego) or we can let fate steer us. Dunion’s recommendation: We should let go of the idea that we alone can get life right. We need to befriend fate. He advises us that:
We need to have a willingness to allow fate to touch us, move us, and teach us while refusing to shut down. Because most of our life experiences are out of our control, it makes sense to allow life to be mostly in control. By doing this, we create an opportunity for fate to get us right. We return to who we were meant to be, rather than pursue who we thought we should be.
Dunion believes that when we trust in fate, we become more receptive to life’s teachings. There’s just one problem: Most of us don’t trust fate. We believe that we, or what is really our ego, knows what is best. The author points out that “the ego wants to look good at all costs and cannot imagine that being authentic is the most rewarding way to hold value and be loved by others.”
I’ve compiled a list of some of the Wisdom teachings that spoke to me. While the list may appear complete, it only scratches the surface of what Dunion has to say. There are more nuances and contours to his lessons on fate than I can fully list here. Consider this the (lightly edited) basics. For the complete story, I recommend picking up this profound and enlightening book.
10 Rules for Befriending Fate
- Your life is determined by your relationship with fate. We are here to serve fate, not the other way around.
- You don’t make life happen. It happens to you. You make yourself available to be touched, moved, and mindful of your experience. You need to learn to let go of trying to get life right, and let life get you right instead.
- One key to getting things right is to honor the meandering and not the arrival. Your journey becomes sacred when you live the questions of meandering, rather than pretending you’re not lost. Meandering serves us when we realize we are somewhere we should probably not be. We experience the loss of having wandered off course, away from what we truly desire.
- To honor fate, our soul asks us to live the larger questions: What’s my purpose? Where am I going? What do I truly love? Do I live my love? What do I long for? What are my gifts? What are my wounds? Who do I want to get closer to? What important task is asking for my attention?
- We have two choices when fate comes to us with people, places, or events out of our control. We can attempt to control the uncontrollable or let go of that control. This does not mean we live in accordance with someone else’s desire. We pay attention to our own instincts and intuition, as to not betray ourselves.
- Fate makes its strongest alterations by defeating us. Just as defeat can devastate us, it steers us away from where we do not belong, moving us in the right direction. It also interrupts our fascination with getting life right.
- Fate is constantly presenting us with the opportunity to decide whether we should deepen our capacity to accept what is coming or exercise our will, enacting some form of change. The challenge is to discern how much will to put forward. Is my will being influenced by some agenda rather than what fate is currently presenting?
- We gradually shift away from the view that fate is either helping or hindering us. This shift suggests the ego is willing to reconcile with fate and in that reconciliation, tolerance morphs into welcome. In turn, fate welcomes us as a friend.
- If control is not an option, then relinquishment, acceptance, love, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion are the only alternatives by which we have to learn.
- You can move your life to a new level by asking, “What does fate need from me?” The question helps the ego find its rightful place and surrender claims to supremacy, as well as support your friendship with fate.
For those who find it difficult to discern their own fate, a few final words of advice from Paul Dunion and Wisdom:
- Remain a student. Stay curious. Hold your unknowing without shame. Have faith that more will be revealed, especially when you feel lost.
- Forgive yourself. We are flawed, imperfect human beings, stumbling toward enlightenment. You must dare and risk, stepping into the unknown, while learning to forgive your stumbling.