The Birthday gift…

Well, I turn 50 today. March 6, 1963, sure doesn’t seem like that long ago! And it certainly doesn’t seem possible that I have spent 50 years in this body. It doesn’t feel 50, it doesn’t think 50, and, wink-wink, I am sure you will all agree that it doesn’t look 50! But the math doesn’t lie, and so today I celebrate my 50th year in this physical form. I have been reflecting a lot these past few months as this day approached. You know, if you read my column, that it has been an especially challenging time for me personally. It has also been a time of great growth and, as hard as this was to see, a time of great change…that is, change that I now see as change for the better.

Change is always for the better, whether or not you can see it in the moment. Once again, that has become true for me. Part of the reason it was hard for me to see was because it was unwanted and unexpected change. But even that, maybe especially because of that, the changes that have happened in my life have created the conditions for me to step into a larger and grander version of myself. While it hasn’t been easy, I spent the last half of last year using all of the tools (and I do mean ALL of them) that I have gathered since I began looking for deeper meaning and understanding of this thing called life. The best news is, they worked! And that has presented me its own Birthday gift.

Having wisdom and using your wisdom are two different experiences. Knowing how to move through challenging times does not guarantee that you will use your knowledge during those challenging times. Knowing vs. using knowledge have two very different outcomes. I am clear that I would not be writing to you this very day without the latter.

So many gifts have been made available to me as a result of all that has happened. I am happy to say I chose to use the same tools I would offer anyone moving through challenging times. Like for example, I didn’t go it alone.  Instead, I chose to ask for help. I didn’t reject my feelings, but rather I embraced them even though they were very painful. I didn’t stuff my emotions with any kind of addictive substances or behaviors, but rather expressed them when they came up. I didn’t hide from the truth, but rather faced it and eventually accepted it, because not to do so was more painful. All of these things, and more, were the pieces of wisdom that I have gathered along the way, moving through other tough times, gathering strength and courage to face the next. Perhaps the greatest gift was the knowing that no matter what, I would be all right. Even though I didn’t feel it, I somehow knew that it would all work out. Even though my life as I knew it was falling apart before my eyes, I also knew that I could pick up the pieces that I really wanted to keep and let the others fall away with grace.

Yes, the last many months have been challenging and wonderful all at the same time. I experienced what the book “Happier Than God” offers, that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive; that is to say, it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time. Contemplate that for a moment. Consider it for a while. The implications of this statement could change everything for you. Think of a time when you may have experienced being happy to be sad. I am experiencing it right now. I am happy that I am sad about the losses I am moving through. It speaks deeply of who I am and who I am choosing to be. This experience has made it clear to me that I love deeply, and that when the loss of a loved one occurs, the experience I feel is a direct reflection of who I really am…love. And I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

A new day has dawned in my life, or perhaps it has just dawned on me that all I have been through has prepared me well for the new life now presenting itself. I am not only ready for the new challenges that I face, but I am excited to “Carpe Diem,” or “seize the day”!

I have been presented with so many opportunities that I am grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful part of the recipe for transforming any experience, especially ones we might perceive as negative. All painful experience comes from a point of view or thought that “this shouldn’t be happening right now.” When you argue with reality, reality wins. The opposite possibility is, of course ,“this should be happening right now,” especially because it is. Accepting reality doesn’t mean you give up the ability to respond to it. Who you choose to be in relationship to the events in your life will create your experience and reality of them. So if it sucks right now, look in the mirror and ask, “How is this response working out for me?” If it sucks, would you be willing to change your mind, point of view, or perspective? Would you be willing to consider the possibility that more will be revealed? The revealing will change everything, including how you hold this experience currently. I hope you will, for that willingness and decision to do so will set you on a path to peace.

I am grateful to say that I am at peace today. I am grateful for all that has happened to me in my 50 years here. I look forward to what I will co-create with the universe in the next 50…and beyond. I am excited about the opportunities that have presented themselves to me as the space has become available for these new things to arrive. I understand now that only when there is space available can the new opportunities become realized. I can now accept these new things in my life because I have accepted the reality of what was and have done my part to create a reality of peace, rather than pain, in relationship to all of it.

Pain is mandatory only because it is instructive. Pain shows you the paths in life that do not work for you. Pain is the opposite of truth. It didn’t say “know the truth, it will cause you pain!”  No.  Truth sets you free! Pain presents the opportunity to see the truth in its opposite form. All I had to do was turn it around and move in the other direction.

There are only two choices in any moment and only two possible outcomes from those two choices. Both are instructive if you only pay attention. One is a path to peace and the other is a path of pain. The choice is always yours which path you take. When you find yourself on a path of pain, turn around, go the opposite direction, make a change in course. Pain is God and Life attempting to show you that you are going the wrong way.

It reminds me of my favorite scene from “Planes Trains and Automobiles” when the two unlikely travelers (John Candy and Steve Martin) end up unknowingly driving down the wrong side of the interstate. A panicked couple on the other side are yelling at the two, “YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” which, just before the predictable disaster strikes, our two sarcastically say, “How would they know where we are going?” Don’t ignore your pain! Life sends you the signs if you are going the wrong way, and pain is one of its greatest tools.

I am happy to say I am not in pain on this day, my Birthday, and that I am paying attention to the signs. I hope you are, too! I hope you are feeling the joy that is you today, for if you are alive and reading this, you have much to be happy and grateful for. We all do. If not, consider reaching out. That is why I am here.

Finally, I would like to share one of the best Birthday gifts I have received this week. It came in the form of an opportunity to share my experience, strength, and hope with another. My work is one of my greatest joys in life, and it certainly is what I came here to be and do this time around. Over the years of counseling and coaching, I have received many of these kinds of expressions, which have always far outweighed any amount of financial compensation I might receive. All have touched me deeply, causing me to clearly know that what I am up to is exactly what I was meant to come here and do. I am grateful every day I get to be there for another.  And when they find the answers within that change everything, well, there are no words.

Here was a recent note posted on the website built especially for the book “When Everything Changes Change Everything” (

“I reached out to the Changing Change network 2 days ago trying to connect with someone who could help me understand some of the things that I am going through in life right now. I was taking Neale’s advice in When Everything Changes Change Everything to “change my decision to ‘go it alone’”. I sent an email requesting info and just a few hours later I got a reply directly from JR Westen, the lead Coach on the Changing Change site, as well as on Neale Donald Waslch’s site, and the Director of the Conversations with God Foundation. He suggested that I call his office and schedule a free consultation with him to try to find a solution to the challenges I am facing. In his email, he wrote, “I have yet to meet a problem that did not come with a solution and a gift.” So, I scheduled the consult anxious to find out what he would think the “gift” is in my situation.

The next day JR called me at the scheduled time and at first I was a bit apprehensive about telling my story to a complete stranger but before long I realized for sure that he was not going to judge me but was there to listen and help me see some things that I was missing.  I am the type who seldom discusses her problems with others but I felt extremely comfortable opening up. I felt like I was talking to a friend. He really gave me some much needed insight and helped me to look at the issues from a healing point of view. In fact, before my conversation with JR, I felt that I was experiencing what could very well have been the worst day of my life; after the conversation, I could not remember that feeling and I was able to have a great day.

I will continue to connect with the Changing Change Network and use the opportunity for coaching whenever I need an impartial nonjudgmental look at my situation to help me see my way through. He understood that I cannot afford to pay the consultation fee right now and is still willing to work with me.

I am writing this post to share my experience so that all of you out there who are going through adversity and want to connect for life coaching or grief counseling or whatever will not be afraid to reach out to the coaches at Changing Change. This is one of the most powerful services offered here, take advantage of it.

Much Love…”

These are the kinds of Birthday gifts I really love and appreciate. This is why I am so excited, especially about what my life is presenting me right now.  This day was made possible by the pain of yesterday and the inevitable growth and healing it birthed. I am reborn this day anew and full of gratitude. Not a bad 50th Birthday gift! No, not bad at all…

(J.R. Westen, D.D., C.A.d, is a Holistic Health & Spiritual Counselor who has worked and presented side-by-side with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade. He is passionate about helping individuals move beyond their emotional and spiritual challenges, transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. His counseling and coaching provides practical wisdom and guidance that can be immediately incorporated to shift one’s experience of life.

As is true for most impactful teachers, J.R.’s own struggles and triumphs inspired him to find powerful ways of helping others. Sober since June 1, 1986, J.R.’s passion for helping individuals move through intense life challenges drove him to also specialize in Addiction and Grief Recovery.

J.R. currently shares his gift of counseling & coaching with individuals from around the world through the Wellness Center, Simply Vibrant, located on Long Island N.Y.  In addition, he operates “Change House” a place where people come to transform.  He also works with Escondido Sobering Services and now serves as the Director for the Conversations with God Foundation. He can be contacted at JR@CWG.ORG or, or to book an appointment, write

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