"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 1:30 p.m. as I sat in my car on the freeway at a dead standstill. The traffic hadn't moved 50 feet in the previous 20 minutes. Thoughts were racing through my mind, such as "It's not supposed to be this way on the freeway at 1:30 in the afternoon. Where did all these people come from, and why aren't they 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 -- a phrase that I read in a book by the mystic Ram Doss came roaring through my head: "Be here now." Given the awareness that I really had no other choice, I started laughing so hard I'm sure my fellow gridlocked sojourners must have thought that I'd finally lost it. I had caught myself red-handed, failing to practice what I preach. It was a delicious moment in which I was reminded of where my inner peace and power lie, within, not on the freeway only when the conditions are just as I think they should be.
The realization I had was that my mind 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 totally at peace, actually enjoying the moment, sitting in the fast lane on the freeway doing two miles per hour. Would worrying that I would be late for my appointment move traffic along any quicker? Of course not! 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. They're not the way they're "supposed to be"; we simply didn't plan on having something happen the way it did, and so on.
There is a well-known saying that contains great wisdom: "Pain in life is a given, but suffering is a choice." Truly, suffering happens when we want life to be other than the way it is in the moment. This is not to say that there aren't times when it would be preferable to have some things different than they are. In those times, when possible, we need to be able and willing to take appropriate action or cease fretting about it. But think about it: In many circumstances, such as mine on the freeway, we make the assumption that there is something wrong. Question: Where was wrong taking place -- on the freeway or in my mind? Clearly, I had no control over the tens of 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 that it should have been different than it was at that moment in time. The secret to inner peace is being present enough in every moment to witness how we see the world and ourselves and, accordingly, where we place our power. Think about this the next time you are on the freeway, zooming along in the fast lane at two miles per hour. Be here now!
As a Mindfulness Practice, Consider the Following:
- The Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
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NOTE: This writing is an excerpt from my book, The Art of Being ~ 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life -- used with permission of the publisher.
For more by Dennis Merritt Jones, click here.
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