Standing in the Sun: a lesson in acceptance

I went for a run the other day and was enjoying my reward of standing and gazing out on the water and feeling that familiar sense of accomplishment and peace.  As I was standing, I realized the sun was beating down on my face and hindering my view. My initial thought was “Damn, it’s too bright and hot now.”  I immediately realized the ridiculousness of this thought.  For a split second, I was totally agitated with the sun for shining on my face and disrupting my beautiful moment on the path.  For that millisecond I thought that I was in control of everything around me and somehow responsible to change everything too.  I mean, who is so ridiculous as to think they can change the sun and why would you want to even if you could?

When we adjust our perception and accept the reality of any given situation, we are able to become more free with each moment.  It’s not about being passive.  It’s about acknowledging our limitations and owning our responsibility.  Through acceptance, we are able to recognize our options and navigate the experience based on how we want to feel. It’s this idea that we may not choose what happens in each moment, but we always have a choice on how we respond and how we feel.  That is true power.  When we focus on ourselves in that way, we save a tremendous amount of energy that would have been futile to waste on changing the other person/situation.  Granted, it may be easier to conceptualize this with the idea of the sun’s beaming rays, but isn’t it just as applicable to think of the guy who cut you off in traffic, your co-worker who is incessantly negative, or the family member who seems to only call when they need something?  You can’t stop those things from happening AND you are not responsible to change the way people talk/act/think. Just like it’s not up to you to get the sun to shine today.

Acceptance is not about being weak, resigning to the other person, or ignoring a real problem…it is simply about acknowledging the sun (aka current situation) exists as it is without trying to control it and remember that the only thing you are responsible for is deciding how you want to experience it.  So go out, stand in the sun or move over to the shade. Just do what makes you happy and love doing it!

 

 

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Be what you want

It is impossible to create immunity from the harmful, painful, and at times devastating statements and opinions at times, but I think there is a better way to insulate ourselves and promote hope than by making sweeping statements of separation or reacting with anger and fear.  Be honest, when was the last time that you effectively persuaded someone to change their values or character by simply ‘telling them something”?

We do not need lessons to teach people, we need to be models of what we hope for.  You don’t have to quit your job and become a full time activist, just be truly active in your life.  If you are reading FB posts that hurt your heart, commit to posting something that lifts you up.  If you see a negative news story that causes you to feel fear or uncertainty; acknowledge your fear and make a decision to move past that fear.  If you find yourself feeling anxious and uncertain, empower yourself with knowledge and seek out your own answers.  It’s not about avoiding pain it or pretending fear doesn’t exist, it’s about finding ways to appease it.

Make a commitment to express gratitude every single day, tell someone you love them, offer help to someone in need, be thoughtful about your communication with others, be open to the possibility of hope, and make a conscious decision to express compassion in every single interaction you have.  If you think of the most powerful ‘lesson’ you ever learned, think about how that came to be….chances are that it was through your own action and decisions.  If I had to ‘tell’ someone just one thing, I would simply share the wise words from Gandhi’s- “Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

Lose interest in negativity

I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences.  I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?”  And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”

Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements.  They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day.  The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”

My initial reaction was to sit down.  Those words were so simple, yet profound.  It made so much sense.  The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all.  I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos.  And I DID find that interesting.  I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.

So I began to digest this idea of disinterest.  I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day.  I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest.  Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable.  I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation.  But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.

The opportunities kept coming.  It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt.  It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen.  Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.

As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude.  My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.

It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear.  Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos.  Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.

How do you experience happiness?

 

If we all can agree that one thing we want is to be happy, then the next question to ask is “How do you want to experience that happiness?”  Often we get caught up in this idea of things that will make us happy.  And most of the time those things are tied to money in some way whether it’s a better paying job, ability to go on vacation, a bigger house, a new car, and so on.

But if you can put all those material things aside and think about how you truly experience happiness, what does that look like for you?  There may be a material component but if you start examining the experience and impact of that experience; the material things will become less significant and ultimately less powerful.

Another pitfall that happens when it comes to discussion of happiness is the one related to circumstances. This happens when we think certain people make us happy or we are only happy in specific environments or even only on certain days (insert TGIF).  We also get caught up in constant comparison of other people and their circumstances.  When we deny our own successes and potential under the umbrella of criticisms and insecurity, we reinforce a life of separation and fear.

The question is simply stated but the answer, I suspect, is as complex as we are individuals.  How we experience happiness is not something that can be manufactured, prescribed, or taught.  It cannot be purchased, bartered, withheld or stolen. It’s not about denying pain or heartache. It is about using our positive experiences to create a natural state of resiliency that sustains us through that pain and heartache.

Happiness is about presence, perception, and engagement.  It’s about being able to recognize blissful moments and understand their significance.  It is about accepting a reality of possibilities that include an infinite source of love and kindness.  It’s about being intentional with your interactions every day.

When we start perceiving our happiness as an experience that we create versus something that is done to us or given to us, we become more confident that it can be sustained even in the face of sorrow, grief, or heartache.  And even more importantly, when we are able to perceive the reality of what generates happiness within our life, we begin to experience that reality in more abundance than we could have ever imagined.

River Edge