Reaching for What's Inside Us

The chills running across my arms didn’t subside for nearly an hour Sunday night. The notion and then the confirmation that Usama bin Laden had been killed hung in the air like some surreal monumental event that only happens in movies.

If there is one thing I’ve learned since he unleashed his vengeance on our shores on Sept. 11, 2001, it is that we must make something out of not just our blessings, but our tragedies as well. My desire to become a life coach and help others do that has transformed my life in the last decade and I submit that it has helped countless others do the same.

When I begin work with a potential client, we spend a one-hour consultation excavating the possibilities for their lives moving forward. So often it is a major blow to their lives that prompts them to seek change, be it a death, a layoff, or even a milestone birthday that shines a spotlight on what they haven’t yet accomplished.

The events of Sept. 11, of course, are on a whole different level because they provided a collective jolt. For those whose reaction to bin Laden’s death fell in the category of satisfied but thoughtful (as opposed to giddy), I suggest further exploration and reflection. Here are some questions to get you started:

How would your life be different if 9/11 hadn’t happened? Have you in any way managed to turn those terror acts into real change in your life or the lives of others? Has 9/11 affected your spiritual life? Are you more or less humane? Have you been living a fearful existence or a gradually courageous one? Have you let the bitterness take over and choke you or have you worked through your pain and turned your attention to honoring all that was lost?

Every minute of every day we see how people choose to answer important questions, from life-and-death ones to child-rearing ones, to whether or not to open themselves up to the rawness of life. Maybe today you’d answer some of these differently than you would have a decade ago because you feel your mortality more or your heart has strengthened and your well of compassion runs deeper.

Perhaps a more poignant question was posed by the most treasured poet of Persia in the 14th century.

Where do you think you will Be/ When God reveals Himself/ Inside of you?” wrote Hafiz (a la Daniel Ladinsky’s translation in The Subject Tonight is Love).

Will you be on a boat on the Hudson River watching unfathomable amounts of smoke billowing from the southern tip of Manhattan and put your arm around a stranger? Will you be escaping from a skyscraper watching firemen carrying heavy equipment rushing in and marvel at their sacrifice? Will you be making your way out when you hear a fellow human being cry for help and be forced to make a decision that puts your own life in jeopardy? Will you rush a cockpit that may cost you your own life but may thwart a terrorist’s plan?

Every day, questions.

Will you rescue a dog that is about to be put to death? Will you forego a much-coveted invitation and instead attend your daughter’s recital? Will you actually listen when others speak? Will you consider that the person lashing out really needs a hug?

Every day, headlines.

Will you put your own fear aside and assist a congresswoman who has just been shot? Will you be, as CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan described on 60 Minutes last weekend, in the midst of having hundreds of men tearing your clothes off in Tahrir Square and realize you must stay alive – if for no other reason – because your young children deserve a mother? Will you train hours and days and months and years to become the crème de la crème of sharp shooters so that when your country comes calling for a special mission you rise to the challenge with grace, poise and courage?

For Jack Lynch, whose 30-year-old son, New York City fireman Michael Francis Lynch, died on Sept. 11, his spiritual compass is clear despite his loss. In an Associated Press/MSNBC report, he said he would not celebrate bin Laden’s death.

“I understand that bin Laden was an evil person. He may have believed in what he was doing. I’m not going to judge him,” Lynch said. “I’m sure some people will look at this and they’ll be gratified that he’s dead, but me personally, I’m going to leave his fate in God’s hands.”

As for me, after a week where some concentrated listening allowed me to effect change in a handful of lives, I will acknowledge that I am grateful to have been awakened and, in turn, to shepherd others in their awakening. Part of that is recognizing the importance of being in the moment and that the future is not promised to us.

Simultaneously, I celebrate our persistence and our resilience as a nation.

All those Americans we lost deserve that.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to