Saturday, November 21, 2009

Accepting the Way Things Are

We human beings spend a lot of our time between two poles: on one end we have the way things are right now, and on the other, the way we would like things to be. As a result, much of our life is spent trying to bring these two opposites together.

We attempt this through a variety of strategies. For example, we may want to possess something, and we suffer because we don't have it right now. So we go out and obtain the possession, and for a moment, the way things are and the way we want them to be are closer together. With the passage of time, however, the novelty of the possession fades and we want something else, so we find ourselves back in the gap between the poles.

So what can we do when the way things are do not match up with the way we want them to be? If there is no immediate and effective solution to this dilemma, we may be better off just dwelling in the discrepancy. We begin by acknowledging when things are not the way we want them to be. Then we allow things to be the way they are and accept the situation as best we can.

The paradox is that the more we dwell in the uncertainty of the discrepancy without trying to change it, the less we suffer. This is because we are intentionally stepping out the automatic pilot way of reacting to situations, and moving instead into a conscious way of responding to them. There may be nothing that can be done in this moment to change the way things are. By acknowledging, allowing, and accepting this moment as it is, even for a short time, we can learn to tolerate uncomfortable situations more easily and not trigger the habitual (and often unskillful) ways of reacting to them.

Today, notice when you find things are not the way you want them to be. In the simple acknowledging of this fact, see what happens to your level of discomfort in that moment. These discrepancies can be subtle, but it is often the seemingly trivial ones that can cause us the most suffering if they are not known, allowed, and accepted.

From Franz Kafka:
You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

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