The Key to understanding life is surrendering.

Early in my career, I ran an integrative medical practice in a downtown Los Angeles clinic that catered to occupational injuries. I treated hundreds of mail carriers who’d been attacked by dogs. During that time, I learned invaluable lessons about the bites as well as the patients who suffered them.

Dog bite injuries are complicated. The flesh tears are uneven so doctors usually don’t suture them. This allows the wound to heal from the inside out and minimize the chance of infection. Basically, the wounds are left open. In spite of the seriousness of their lacerations, many of my patients healed effortlessly. Some did not. I wondered what made the difference. After some research, I found my answer.

A dog’s teeth are sharp and angled back towards the rear of the mouth. The jaw is supported by powerful muscles that exert a tremendous amount of force. It’s the perfect meat-ripping machine. When a person’s hand is wrenched between the rear-angled teeth, pulling away is the worst move to make. This reaction makes the injury worse. Counter-intuitive as it seems; the best thing to do is shove the hand further into the dog’s mouth. This activates its gag reflex, forcing it to open and release the hand.

Embracing Struggles

“To embrace life’s challenges is to utilize the “rival’s” energy for an infinitely higher purpose – to transcend.”

There is a martial arts principle that says: “Push when pulled, and pull when pushed.” Instead of confronting force with force, a more efficient strategy is to use the challenger’s own energy against himself. When an opponent approaches with a pushing motion, the rival will grab and pull the forward moving hand or foot and throw the opponent to the ground, helped along by the opponent’s own force, will and intention.

These discoveries revealed a beautiful healing metaphor. Embracing struggles, rather than resisting them, is wise. Unlike the boxer, whose stance is closed and protected, the martial artist takes an open-armed stance, a postural invitation to his challenger. The message is clear: Bring it on. Life’s trials are opportunities for growth. To embrace these challenges is to utilize the “rival’s” energy for an infinitely higher purpose – to transcend.

“Our healing must begin at a deeper level within our hearts and minds before we can see physical change.”

Dog bites must heal from the inside out. The wound may look terrible from the surface, but the real healing needs to start at a deeper level. Likewise, we tend to become distracted at the physical appearance of our own health issues, not realizing our healing must begin at a deeper level within our hearts and minds before we can see physical change. “Sur” means “above”. If we intend to heal the problems on the surface of our lives, then we must learn to FACE what lies deeper within.

When a negative life situation “attacks”, the most empowering question to ask is, “What has this challenge come to teach me?” Go into it. Fighting only uses vital power that needs to be directed toward healing. The key to thriving in life is surrender. Recoiling from any of life’s perceived assailants guarantees a deeper wound, a slower healing process and a messier scar.