The Fickle Finger of Fate

By Keith Varnum

A very brief, but potent incident early in my workshop career showed me that the human ability to heal has no limits—not even in regard to the past.

We’re told there’s nothing we can do about an incident that has already occurred. From birth, we’re bombarded with the collective tribal agreement: “That’s water over the dam” and “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” The mainstream cultural belief is that once an event occurs a certain way, that’s it. It’s done. It’s fact. Nothing and no one can change the past!

I also was at the mercy of this limited way of thinking until I accumulated several healing experiences that were an exception to this paradigm. I began to strongly suspect that human beings have more power than we give ourselves credit for. I began to realize that the past can be changed. I learned it’s very effective to “cry over spilled milk.”

A challenging new workshop in New York loomed ominously on my horizon. I wasn’t looking forward to conducting the event. In fact, I was dreading the trip.

During my previous stay in New York, the person who had so supportively facilitated seminars with me for years decided to quit his career as a workshop leader because of personal issues. He hit a wall of fear about being so visible and vulnerable to the public. I felt alone and shaky going back to the Big Apple to teach a brand new program without a trusted and able comrade by my side. He was also my best personal friend, so I felt a strong sense of sadness and loss as well. To add to the discomfort level, it was a very hot, humid summer on the East Coast. The apartment where I was staying had no air-conditioning.

So, I was experiencing a lot of resistance to going through with the whole affair. Nevertheless, canceling was not an option. Many people already had enrolled in the class. Some were traveling long distances to attend. I was committed to going.

I rushed to make breakfast before the taxi arrived to take me to the Phoenix airport. In my haste, I was careless and cut myself slicing homemade bread for my toast. The knife slashed deeply into my left index finger. Blood spurted like a geyser all over the cutting board and kitchen counter. I grabbed my finger, squeezing it tightly to try to stop the bleeding.

My heart sank. I cried out loud, “Oh, God, this is too much!”

Immediately, my mind and emotions focused on and exaggerated a worst-case scenario: With the throbbing pain of a severely cut finger, I won’t be able to relax on the five-hour flight to New York. I’ll never get a restful night’s sleep in a sweltering hot, humid apartment. Nor will I be able to deliver a seven-day seminar in a composed, professional way. And my finger will probably become infected. 

The projected nightmare of having to pretend to be happy, healthy and together with this injury while leading a workshop for seven days quickly became a totally overwhelming and unbearable prospect.

Suddenly, from the depths of my being, welling up from a place I didn’t know existed, came a thunderous cry, “NOOOO!” For what seemed an eternity, I screamed out loud at the height of my voice from the depths of my soul, “NOOOOOOOO, I WILL NOT DO THIS!  IT CANNOT BE!” It was an absolute refusal from the core of my being. I cried “NO” to the cut and to the nightmarish problems I imagined it would create.

Finally, I ran out of breath and the “NO” started to trail off. Shaking uncontrollably, I concentrated on catching my breath after the exertion of my despairing wail. Then I heard a sound unlike any other I’ve ever heard. It came from inside me and resembled the whir of a tape recorder when it rewinds. I instinctively shook my head trying to dispel the strange noise, but the sound continued for several minutes, finally winding down to silence.

With the quiet came a sense of calm. Peacefulness replaced my apprehension. I noticed I no longer had any pain in my finger, still wrapped in the vise of my right fist. Slowly, I relaxed my grip on the injured finger and, very cautiously, withdrew my hand. The cut was gone! It no longer existed. There wasn’t even a scratch to indicate where the knife had sliced my flesh. The blood was gone. I looked at my right hand, which had squeezed the cut finger. No blood. My eyes went to the cutting board and countertop. I saw the partially sliced bread and the knife. But no blood!

I stumbled to a nearby chair and sat down, totally confounded. What happened? Did I imagine the whole thing? I examined my finger again. Nothing unusual.

Disoriented and discombobulated, I must have sat there for twenty minutes contemplating the details of the event I was sure I just experienced in my kitchen. Over and over, I replayed the incident in my mind’s eye. I pictured myself holding the bread and picking up the knife. I felt the knife slice through my flesh. I heard myself scream as I had never cried out before. Then the injury and the blood disappeared. My ordered, rational world turned upside-down. How could I make any sense of this? My mind whirled in circles, trying to comprehend the unexplainable phenomenon.

Shocked out of my bewildered state by the sharp intrusion of a taxi horn outside my door, I was spurred into action. I grabbed my suitcase with my now whole and healthy left hand and lumbered down the hallway to the waiting cab.

As the taxi whisked me away from my old world to begin a new adventure in the Big Apple, I realized I had just traveled on an inner journey of transformation to a new, bigger reality. Born of necessity, I’d learned how to tap into the place within my being of profound will, decision and intention. Owning this natural power has changed my conception—and enjoyment—of reality forever.

This story is from Keith’s book “Inner Coach: Outer Power