It is said that life consists of
10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows.
In other words, as long as you are born you are going to experience equal amounts of ups and downs. May be not exactly equal.
This is pretty much given. You will face setbacks. You will fall sick. You will experience unpleasant events. Things will happen that will make you miserable.
Of course you will also experience a lot of positive events. You will experience ecstatic moments. You will experience triumphs. You will experience success. You will experience tremendous joy.
Yet when you face setbacks,
you pretty much behave as if you don’t expect them.
When you fall sick, your attitude towards sickness is that of an unwanted visitor. And as you read this if you think it doesn’t make sense, that is exactly the point.
Not wanting problems in life and not being open to things going wrong comes naturally to you and you don’t even question that most of the time.
Although as long as you are alive you are going to experience stress, your instinctive reaction to stress is that of avoiding. You instinctively try to escape or run away from stress. Does that help?
May be at times, but in general avoidance is not a great strategy. Because stress and difficulties visit you from time to time. At least one third of your life you will experience something unpleasant.
And if you are going to spend time escaping, avoiding and running away from unpleasant experiences… it is going to be a hell lot of time running away.
How far you can escape has its limits. How much you can avoid also has its limits.
You live in a confined and limited world. Not only that it is the very nature of stress and difficulty that they are present themselves no matter where you go and no matter where you are in time.
You can say that spending majority of time running away from what is already present is a legitimate way of being! And it is a legit choice. But for those who are interested in an alternative way of being, read on!
Rather than trying to run away or escape from something that is unpleasant, you can also turn towards it! It is possible for you to face problems head on. And when I say facing problems head on, it is not with the attitude of fighting it off!
It is with the attitude of allowance or opening up to the problems.
This may sound very unfamiliar but it is definitely a possibility. You are predisposed to not see your problems this way! The very definition of the problem is that you want it to go away. That is how you are born, wanting the problems to go away.
That is how you saw others behave growing up. Pushing their problems away and it came naturally to you. And that is the only way you may have dealt with your problems for the whole of your life.
And in doing so, you may have highly conditioned that way of dealing with problems in your mind.
You can learn to face difficulties in an artful way. When faced that way,
it can lead to peace and harmony even in the midst of, apparently, problematic situation.
Let’s say you are steering a sailboat from location A to location B in the ocean. You have to work with the wind direction and its strength! You don’t control which direction and how strong the wind will blow.
What you know is you start at A and you want to go to B. You can leave the sailboat at the total mercy of the wind, thinking you can’t do anything. In that case wind will take your boat to which ever direction it blows and how strongly it blows.
But if you realize that you can not only manipulate the sail, but you can manipulate it skillfully, such that whenever the wind is favorable, you leverage it fully to propel your boat in the right direction and when it is not at all favorable, you roll up your sail.
You can even be ready to be pushed back along your path, only to catch up later when things turn favorably.
If there is a room for patience along with the skill, you can sail through any type of windstorms and still reach your destination.
Similarly the wind of your external circumstances is not in your control. Your sail, or your attitude and your response to external circumstances is something definitely in your control. You may need some help in artful maneuvering your attitudinal sail.
That’s where awareness comes into the picture. You have to come to this realization. When it comes to dealing with problems and stress, you have choices. It is possible for you to maneuver your sail. It is through awareness you realize choices and start giving alternate choices a try.
Your default mode of avoidance and escape is a reactive and habitual response which comes about spontaneously and subconsciously.
The only way to see beyond the habit is through awareness.
You do have the capacity to be aware. It may not be naturally strong to begin with, but it is something that can be cultivated. You can cultivate awareness and through awareness, learn to stop fighting the difficult situations.
When you stop fighting what you have always fought, there is a possibility for you to calm down in the midst of a storm and perhaps even relax eventually.
Awareness can also help you arrive at the realization that when you feel stressed and vulnerable, you don’t necessarily have to rely on external agents to relax or soothe you! You can soothe and relax yourself!
Normally you tend to underestimate your own capacity in dealing with difficult situations.
You can learn to become more responsible for yourself! It is none other than the realization and subsequent execution of alternate choice of accepting a situation which you can’t do anything about and is beyond your control.
It is the realization that when someone disrespects you or yells at you, you may not be able to physically shut that person up, although your gut reaction will be doing something like that. But how you react to the slings and arrows of defamation is up to you.
Often this is viewed as being a coward or a pushover. But it really is not. It is dealing with problems gracefully. A person who disrespects, can definitely be sent a skillful and stern message not to do the same.
But habitual tit-for-tat response physical violence, is not a solution for the most part. You have eternally engaged in tit-for-tat games, have they solved your problems?
In summary, it may be worth investigating at the fundamental level, how you relate to what is unpleasant and uncomfortable.
If you curiously explore the working of your own mind, you may find new ways of relating to old problems.
These new ways of relating to what is around can help you live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
This investigative work requires awareness as your companion. It is through awareness that you get to know your subconscious habits and highly conditioned reactive patterns.
Awareness combined with clarity of analysis could lead to new learning that can help you heal, grow and mature as a person.
Want to embark upon the journey of cultivating awareness? Meditation is the fastest way to cultivate awareness!
If you are a beginner, or even if you are not, you can learn meditation here.