"Our most basic assumption is that we are the way we see ourselves and the world is the way we see it. We are taught to believe life should be a certain way and we should be a certain way. When it isn't and we aren't, we assume there's something wrong and something should be done to fix things. Suffering happens when we want life to be other than the way it is." -- Cheri Huber
It was 5 a.m. as I sat in my car on the 405 freeway at a dead standstill. The traffic hadn't moved 50 feet in the past 20 minutes. This was not great news given that I had a 7 a.m. flight to catch out of Los Angeles International Airport -- and I was still over 20 miles away. Thoughts were racing through my mind, such as: "It's not supposed to be this way on the freeway at 5 a.m. -- where did all these people come from and why aren't they already at work or at home where they should be?" I was really becoming a participant in the drama when suddenly, like a Greyhound bus in the fast lane, the title of mystic Ram Dass' classic book "Be Here Now" came roaring through my head. Given the awareness that I really had no other choice than to be there at that moment, I started laughing so hard I'm sure my fellow gridlocked drivers must have thought I had finally lost it. I had caught myself red-handed, not practicing what I preach, and it was a delicious moment to be reminded of where my true peace and power lie -- within, not on the 405 freeway only when the conditions are just as I think they "should be."
The realization I had was that my mind desperately wanted my body to be someplace other than where it was at that instant, and I was suffering because of it. What a liberating moment that was for me -- nothing had to change but my perspective, and I was at peace, actually enjoying the moment, sitting in the fast lane going 2.5 miles per hour, mindfully breathing in and out very slowly. Would fretting I might miss my flight move traffic along any quicker? Of course not. Could I catch another flight? Sure. Might it be an inconvenience? Most definitely... but the planet would not stop spinning and the sun would surely rise again, even if I did miss my flight. I suspect most of us have been caught in similar conditions and have become victims of a mindset that simply can't accept things the way they are because it's not the way it's "supposed to be" or, we simply didn't plan to have something happen the way it did, or it just wasn't fair... blah, blah, blah. The unavoidable result is, it is we who suffer.
There is a well known saying wherein lies great wisdom if we have ears to hear it: "Pain in life is a given but suffering is a choice." Truly, things happen in life that cause pain, but suffering occurs when we want life to be other than the way it is in the moment. (Note: While this may be equally true of physical pain, I am now referring to emotional pain.) This is not to say that there aren't times when it would be preferable to have things different from how they are in the moment, and in those times it is helpful to remember we are always at choice. We can (1) choose to take appropriate action to change things when possible, (2) choose to cease fretting about it altogether, or (3) choose to cling to our suffering because things are not as we would prefer them to be.
To help put the topic of choice in proper context with this writing, consider that in many circumstances, such as mine on the freeway, we assume there is something "wrong." Of course the obvious question is where was "wrong" taking place -- on the freeway or in my mind which was already in the departure lounge at the airport waiting impatiently for my body to arrive? Clearly, I had no control over the thousands of cars on the freeway, and making it wrong for the freeway to be gridlock was a choice I made based on my assumption it "should" have been different from the way it was at that moment. Clearly, the choice I will make next time I have a 7 a.m. flight out of LAX is to get an earlier start -- or book a later flight.
Can you see how easy it is to reclaim our inner peace? The secret is being present enough in every moment to witness how we choose to see the world and ourselves, and accordingly, where we place our power. Our true power can only be found in the present moment where and when the mind and the body are in the same place at the same time. The takeaway for me is that irrespective of where my body is, choosing to be fully present in it is a wise thing to do. I invite you to remember this the next time your mind is insisting that your body be some place other than where it is in that moment. Take a deep breath and affirm to yourself "Be Here Now." It really is the key to inner peace and you'll enjoy the journey of your life far more -- regardless of where your body is going.
NOTE: I am excited to let you know that my new book, "Your (Re)Defining Moments - Becoming Who You Were Born to Be" will be released in June by Tarcher/Penguin Publishing. I invite you to click on the link to Amazon and reserve an advanced copy today!