Have you ever complained about the weather wanting it to not rain or snow or heat up, so you can go out and do whatever it is you wanted to do? Have you ever complained about the driver driving in front of you, who is driving 5 miles under the speed limit, when the driver should be driving 5 miles over (because you drive that way)? Have you ever gone back to a restaurant to recreate the same experience you once did with a loved one only to be disappointed? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, then you’re hardly alone.
The question is why do we try to force things to happen in our lives (via people, place, or things) instead of being happy with however life unfolds in front of us? Why do we insist on having things to be a certain way outside, so we can be okay inside? Why do we try to create our own inner (subjective) reality and in doing so lose out on outer (objective) Reality? Most of all, why do we keep ourselves from truly experiencing life the way its meant to be experienced?
For instance, we set goals and have expectations in our lives for ourselves (and for others around us) by wanting our lives to go in a certain direction (by continuously preparing for the future) and in doing so, we ruin our present experience for some (perceived) future happiness that we mistakenly think we’ll experience upon getting there. This way, we are always preparing to live our lives, but never end up living it. But, we forget life isn’t about getting what we want (or not want) and then trying to make it happen that way. Focusing on what is beyond our control and wishing for that to happen in our lives (by way of putting ourselves on an endless psychological leash) is a recipe for continuous unhappiness, stress, and burnout.
Why do we insist the world change in some way, so we can be okay inside? Why aren’t we okay inside irrespective of what happens outside in the world? We are not okay because we have built this whole model in our mind since our formative years (thanks in no small part to societal conditioning) based on our past preferences, where we have determined what is good or bad and saved those impressions within. Then, we cling to the good and avoid the bad. For instance, if it rains, it’s bad and if it’s warm, it’s good. Then, when we get what we want (warm weather), we feel good. And, when we get what we don’t want (rainy conditions), we feel less than great.
By saving these preferences within, we repeatedly strive to match our future experience with our inner mental model of preferences we have defined for ourselves, just so we can stay within the mental confines of our comfort zone. In other words, we keep ourselves in the prison of our mind even when the door is wide open, paraphrasing the great Rumi. We are, ergo, living in our own (subjective) reality based on our past impressions created within rather than experiencing (objective) Reality.
For instance, we “know” what a relationship should be like based on our parents’ marriage, seeing others in relationships, learning from our own past relationships or through what we are exposed to from popular culture. So when we meet someone and things are going well until the other person says/does something that doesn’t match with our idea (preference) of what a relationship should be like, we are quick to part ways with them. When we have preconceived notions (mental checklist) about what relationship should be like (and not like), we leave little room to get to truly know others, much less to experience love and joy with them.
There are two ways to live our lives. One where we try to make the world to be a certain way, so we can be okay. In other words, we need others to be a certain way, so we can feel okay inside. Or we can be okay inside regardless of what happens outside. Suffice it to say, the comparison between these two approaches is night and day.
So how can we be okay inside irrespective of what happens outside? It’s about realizing life isn’t about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want. We need to stop judging our present experience by way of classifying it as positive and negative. We need to start experiencing each moment for what it is rather than hoping or wanting it to be something else. We remind ourselves that everything has its nature and we are grateful that we get to experience it all. If it rains, great. If it’s hot, then that’s great too. How amazing is it that we get to experience the heat from Sun millions of miles away?! How amazing is it that we get to experience love and joy with another person without have any set notions in our minds about what a relationship should be like?!
Despite what I shared earlier, life isn’t about creating your reality, but rather surrendering ourselves to Reality. Acceptance is a huge part of surrendering to Reality. We need to stop having expectations in our lives around people, place, and things. We need to stop trying to change others and make them do things our way. We need to accept others for who they are, rather than resist them for who they are not.
Surrendering to Reality means we neither cling to nor resist our situations. It doesn’t mean giving up or not doing our best in whatever we do. It’s not a weakness. It’s about letting go of the impressions we have stored within from our past experiences, so we can be light and soar higher. That means we stop using past experiences to determine the quality of our present experience. It requires embracing our past (no matter how its turned out for you), because it is the sum of our experiences from birth to present.
Lastly, we need to put things in perspective. Here we are on a planet that is spinning in the middle of nowhere around an exploding star engulfed by darkness in all directions and its absurd that we are complaining about trivial everyday things. We are here on this beautiful planet for a short time and we struggle to be happy with ourselves and with each other.
When we have set notions about how everything in our life should be, we start to live our own reality and miss out on the true Reality. We are experiencing outside through our narrow vision of what we think reality is. That is suffering, but we don’t have to continue to live this way. We can surrender ourselves to Reality by letting everything pass through us by neither clinging to nor resisting our situations. We experience each moment for what it is rather than hope or want it to be any other way. Its only then we can begin to experience our true Self.