Alas, I know if I ever became truly humble, I would be proud of it.
Now we're ready for the really good stuff--the affirmations of living, loving, health, wealth, happiness, and joy.
I'm not sure what Johnny Mercer meant by "latch on to" in the lyric of his song. I doubt if he meant "become attached to." I certainly don't mean it that way. If joy, loving, and happiness become new "shoulds," "musts," and "have-tos," we are, once again, "doomed before we even take the vow."
Humans have a natural ability to want, desire, aspire, yearn, and long for. Any attempt to diminish this natural desire I find (a) counterproductive, (b)frustrating, and (c) so improbable it borders on the impossible.
Some people desire desirelessness with such a passion that it actually increases their ability to desire. What we do we become stronger in, and these people yearn so much and so often to have no more yearning that their ability to yearn becomes astronomical.
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?.
I see nothing wrong with the human trait to desire. In fact, I consider it integral to our success mechanism. Becoming attached to what we desire is what causes the trouble. If you must have it in order to be happy, then you are denying the happiness of here and now.
If, however, you're focusing on the positive aspects of the reality around you while traveling in the direction you want to go, I see no problem with that at all. In fact, it sounds to me like a pleasant, productive way to live.
Rather than trying to diminish desire, I suggest you desire what you really want more of. Desire happiness. Aspire to gratitude. Long for health. Crave compassion. Seek satisfaction. Lust after God (however and whatever you perceive God to be). Want to love yourself, others, and everything around you more and more each day.
These are laudable goals. They're also fun, challenging, exciting, and not only within your grasp, but also within your reach.
All nature is but art unknown to thee, All chance, direction which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good; And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite, One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
Acceptance is such an important part of happiness, contentment, health, and growth that some people have called it "the first law of personal growth."
The world goes on, people do what they do, events come and go, and, for the most part, our only choice in all this is, "Do I accept it or not?" If we accept it, we flow with it. We allow life to do what it's already doing.
If we refuse to accept it, we usually feel pressure, pain, frustration, anxiety, and dis-ease. We struggle with what is. The struggle, for the most part, takes place within us--where it also does the most harm.
Acceptance is not the same as liking, or being happy about, or even condoning. It is simply seeing something the way it is and saying, "That's the way it is." It's seeing what's going on and saying, "That's what's going on." It's looking at something that's happening and saying, "That's what's happening."
Acceptance is realizing that to do other than accept is (a) painful and (b) futile. Through nonacceptance we try to control the world. We want our "shoulds," "musts," and demands to rule the world.
It doesn't work. It simply does not work.
The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.
To prove how futile the struggle to control the world, get up tomorrow at 4 a.m. and try to keep the sun from rising. Do everything you can to keep it from coming up. Struggle madly. Use all your power, influence, money, friends, and political connections to help. You won't be able to delay its scheduled ascension for so much as a millisecond.
Maybe you don't want to control the turning of the earth; you just want to control the world around you. Good luck on that one, too. The truth is, we sometimes can't even control ourselves--that part of the universe we have the most direct influence over. If we can't control our own thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions, how can we hope to control others?
Nature goes on being nature in its own natural way. We have very little control over it. What do we have control over? The space within the skin of our body. We can work to make that environment as loving, joyful, peaceful, and delightful as we like. That in itself is a lifelong project--and a worthy one, too.
The rest--the outer environment--does what it does. There's not much more to do than say, "It's doing what it's doing."
When we set out to change a small fraction ofthe outer universe we do have some ability to change, one of the best starting points is acceptance. The sculptor begins by accepting the block of marble as it is, and then removes everything that isn't a statue. When asked how to sculpt a horse, one artist explained, "I see the horse in the stone; then I take away everything that is not the horse."
Michelangelo's David was carved from a flawed block of marble. Another sculptor had begun work on the block and abandoned it. There was a deep gash in the side, making the stone "unacceptable" to sculptors for decades. Michelangelo, however, accepted the marble--gash and all--and created one of the marvels of humanity.
We begin with acceptance and move from there. This includes acceptance of ourselves. We are, please remember, a part of nature. We can be as contrary as a thunderstorm on a picnic. That "natural" part of us has its own rhythms, its own timelines, and its own agenda. While bringing this "animal" under control, we must learn to accept it.
This "natural" part of us most people call the body, and that's accurate, providing that you remember the body includes the brain that thinks the thoughts and the nerves that feel the feelings. Thoughts and feelings are a necessary part of the human animal.
The "natural" part of us thinks the Fight or Flight Response is terrific. Eons of genetics have told it so. We now must gradually convince "it" that the Love and Acceptance Response is more valuable for our survival as an animal.
This "convincing" we call education. The source of the word is educare, "to lead forth from within." It's the gradual process of leading from within rather than being led from without.
In that process of teaching acceptance, we must practice acceptance. Set a good example for yourself. Learn to accept whatever you do. This, of course, is not carte blanche to run roughshod over others or to hurt yourself. It's just a realization that, being human, we're going to do things we're not going to like (and by "doing," I mean all levels of doing, including thoughts and feelings), and we might as well accept those, too.
There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL
Learn to accept even your lack of acceptance. When you're not accepting something, accept your nonacceptance of it. Can't accept your nonacceptance? Then accept the fact that you can't accept your nonacceptance. If the bad stuff like guilt can pile up in layers (feeling guilty about feeling guilty about feeling guilty), so can the good stuff (accepting the fact that you can't accept your nonacceptance).
Yes, it gets funny, and it certainly can be fun. That's one of the keynotes of acceptance: a sense of lightness. As you accept the heaviness, you begin to feel "the unbearable lightness of being." Accept that, too. No: welcome it.
With acceptance, you can't set some things aside and say, "I'll accept these, but not those." Acceptance is unconditional. You can like one thing more than another--that's preference--but acceptance means not excepting anything. Actually, it's easier that way. You don't have to remember what to and what not to accept. If it is, accept it. Simple.
Schedule acceptance breaks throughout the day. Give yourself an acceptance break right now. Accept everything around you, everything inside you, everything about everything. Accept your thoughts. Accept your thoughts about your thoughts. Accept your thoughts about your thoughts about your thoughts. Accept whatever feelings you have, the sensations in your body. Don't try to change any of it--trying to change is a form of nonacceptance.
I travel light; as light, That is, as a man can travel who will Still carry his body around because Of its sentimental value.
Accept your surroundings, your physical environment. Accept your room, its furnishings, the smells, the sounds, and the occupants. Accept your thoughts about what's there and about what's not there. Accept your memories, fantasies, demands, and opinions about how it should be.
Accept all the things you did but wish you didn't do and all the things you didn't do but wish you did. Notice that these decisions about what's hot and what's not about an activity (or inactivity) are thoughts, too. Accepting thoughts--including the negative ones--is an important step toward greater joy.
And greater health.
To be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious of our own existence.
To become the spectator of one's own life is to escape the suffering of life.
Observation is a pathway to acceptance. To observe is to think, feel, taste, smell, see, and hear without attachment, without attempting to manipulate the outcome, without taking sides.
All you do is observe. Simply "be with" whatever information your senses present to you. If your mind goes off on judgments and evaluations, observe that. Don't get involved with the thoughts; don't try to change them; just observe them.
As you learn to observe, you become more in touch with that part of you that's you. When you stand back and observe, you'll begin to experience a you that isn't your mind and its thoughts, isn't the emotions and their feelings, and isn't the body and its sensations.
This existence of you is hard to communicate, because I have to use words, which are decoded by the mind, and the mind does not like to relinquish its authority or to admit that there's something more basic to you than it.
You'll understand by doing. After fifteen or so minutes of consciously observing, you may begin to notice the part that's doing the observing.
Give yourself a period of time in which you won't be disturbed. Decide for that period of time to do nothing but observe. Sit or lie comfortably. Now, be still and be.
The mind will present "good ideas" to do something else. Don't do anything about them; just observe them. The feelings will want something more exciting to feel about. Don't fulfill them; observe them. The body will demand attention. Don't attend to it; just observe the demands.
I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair.
If you want to change positions, don't. Just observe the desire to change positions. If you have an itch, don't scratch it. Observe the itch. Your mind, body, and emotions may throw little--and sometimes not so little--temper tantrums. Observe the tantrums. Observe the inner kicking and screaming. These (or the fear of these) may be what has controlled you for some time. Gain authority over them. You gain authority by doing none of the actions they demand you do. Just sit and observe.
The game is this: The mind, body, and emotions say, "I'm going to get you to move before the fifteen minutes (or whatever time you set for yourself) is over." You say, "No, I'm not." And the game begins. You may say, "Oh, it's easy not to move for fifteen minutes." Most games look easy from the sidelines. Play the game and see.
If it's easy, congratulations! If it's not, don't be surprised. The things that trouble you during this process are probably the same things that trouble you in life: the "shoulds," "musts," "have-tos," and demands of your mind, body, and emotions.
The solution? Observation. Simply observe. You'll learn a lot about yourself. And, you'll learn a lot about the parts of yourself that aren't your self.
You can, if you like, extend the "sitting observation" to "moving observation." As you move through life, observe it. Observe your reactions.
Observation is a primary tool of awareness. The more you observe what you're now unaware of, the more aware you become.
Thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find --nothing.
There is a saying that has found its way onto plaques, posters, buttons, bumper stickers, mugs, T-shirts, and balloons. Any idea with such universal appeal must have more than a modicum of truth. This saying does.
Be patient. God isn't finished with me yet.
Patience is our compassion for the distance between what we are now and what we know we can be.
Because we have such fertile imaginations, we can envision ourselves scaling mountains one moment and swimming oceans the next. To get from the mountaintop to the beach, however, takes a certain amount of time. If we're on the mountain and want to go to the ocean, that's fine. But if we strike against ourselves for not being at the ocean right now, we're being impatient.
Most people reading this book have already formed a mental image of what the "perfect, healthy, positively focusing" person "should" be. You may have formed such an image, and you also may have cast yourself as the star of the production. Great! (Or, in show-biz terminology: Bravo!) The only minor challenge, then, is how we get from where we are to where we want to be.
But if you're putting undue pressure on yourself to achieve these goals of perfection, health, and positivity--impatience has crept in.
No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
Relax. Life is a lifelong journey. You'll never get out of it alive. You'll never be "done." You're fine just as you are. You're not finished with yourself, and never will be. I've yet to meet a person who hasdeclared, "I'm done!" Humans have desires, dreams, and goals beyond their current reality, no matter how magnificent that reality might be. It's part of the human condition.
Realize, then, that the journey from here to there will never be completed. Such is life. Have compassion for the distance between where you are now and where you're going next. (Where you are now, remember, is the goal of a former moment in time.)
Patience is enjoying the journey. It's not climbing the mountain to get to the top; it's climbing the mountain to enjoy the climb. Enjoy the process of your life. The travel ads claim, "Getting there is half the fun," and as Robert Townsend corrected: "Getting there is all the fun."
Dear God, I pray for patience. And I want it right now!.
Besides, if you don't have fun while getting there, you probably won't have much fun when you arrive. Your joy muscles will have atrophied. You will have learned to postpone fun so well that you'll postpone it until your next destination. ("I can't wait to go on vacation." "I can't wait to get home.")
Another popular saying is "Let go and let God." Letting go is relaxing. Letting God is being patient. Relax and be patient. What a great prescription for enjoying life.
When you learn patience with yourself, it's easy to extend it to others. When you learn patience with others, be sure to extend it to yourself.
Realize that, right now, everything is the way it "should" be, and when later comes, everything will be "perfect" then, too.
What is patience? Enjoying the moment. How does one enjoy the moment? By being patient. An endless loop? Sure. And you can jump in at any point.
Copyright © 1988-1996 Peter McWilliams & Prelude Press, Inc.
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