Hang on, doesn’t that sound a little extreme, Michele? Well, no actually. So stick with me folks, because I’m about to unpack one big secret to living a blissful life—and blissful doesn’t mean pain-free by the way, as experiencing pain is just another beautiful facet of the experience of being human. I have to lay some groundwork by introducing a few concepts though.
Concept #1: Our lives are beautiful stories that are being written from second to second and what you believe in (or don’t) is perfect.
Think about it, you can tell the “story of your life” but what’s really happening is that we’re experiencing the “telling” of our own stories in real-time with every tick of the clock, as if we’re actually in a spontaneously occurring play with 7 billion other people on Earth. It can be difficult to view your life as a constantly unfolding story when you can’t step out of it to watch it like a movie or read about it like in a book (or can you?). Humans share their own stories all of the time; we call them autobiographies or we read about them in history books, and they are a valuable record of someone’s life. The cool thing is that if we look at our own lives through this filter (that we’re just characters in a story that we’re experiencing in real-time along with everybody else), then one’s spiritual or religious beliefs are always that individual’s truth and this truth then becomes part of that person’s unique and beautiful story right? So there’s really no need to feel hatred toward others who do not believe what you do any more than there is a need to convert others to your personal belief system as whatever you believe is simply a fabulous narrative in your personal and perfectly unique life story and we’re ALL living and experiencing our own unique life story in this very moment.
Concept #2: Most people don’t get angry when their favorite book didn’t end the way they thought it should.
Now I want you to think of your all-time favorite book. Why is it your favorite? Something about the story hooked you, and you probably felt some type of emotional connection when reading it. As you read this story and then had to put the book down, did you find yourself trying to write the rest of the story in your mind or did you just want to dig back into the book to see how the story ended? Yes, there’s a natural and healthy curiosity about the ending, but most of us probably didn’t spend every waking moment trying to write what we thought should be the ending and place all of these expectations on the book. We just picked up the book and enjoyed the unfolding of that particular story page by page until we got to the end. And if the book surprised you, did you then spend time and energy being pissed off at the book, or having regrets because it didn’t end the way you thought it should or did you just say, “Wow…didn’t expect that!” and then let it go?
Concept #3: The greatest cause of suffering/self-inflicted emotional pain is when we resist “what is.”
What exactly is this whole resistance thing? After all aren’t we all the captains of our own lives to some extent, don’t we know what is best for ourselves in most situations? The answer is yes AND no (gotta love paradoxes!). So let me tell a story that really happened to me a few months back to demonstrate this whole resistance thing, as resistance creeps into our lives in sometimes very small acts, thoughts, or choices.
I drove to the post office and parked in a narrow one way street. I was in a hurry because I needed to go to one store before heading out of town to work at an Earth-based camp for women survivors of sexual violence (you can check out Camp Mabon here by the way). I got back to my car and two school buses were just sitting there with their stop signs out and I was sandwiched between them, but all the kids were just lounging around and not getting onto the bus. So, thinking of my life as a story that is being told only in real-time, I had a choice to make with the next part of my story. I could either get pissed off that the “story” wasn’t going how I thought it should (as in, ‘those buses needed to move the hell out of my way!’) or I could simply accept that my preferred version of the story just wasn’t what the Universe was placing before me in that moment, which also translates into simply accepting “what is.”
On that particular day, I chose to get angry, and that was the moment where I was also choosing to resist “what is.” Why was I resisting “what is?” Because in my mind, I was trying to write the next part of the story and when it didn’t happen that way, the first thought in my mind was, “those buses should move because I’m in a hurry!”
See folks, if you start paying attention to your inner dialogue (a.k.a. monkey mind or ego), I’ll bet when you realize you’re irritated about something or angry about something (which is part of the experience of suffering), you are using should statements left and right. I’ll also bet that those should statements are happening because “what is” doesn’t match up with your preferred version of your story.
Concept #4: The Universe allows for both creativity and predictability (another paradox, YIPPIE!).
So how is it that I can walk outside tomorrow morning to find my vehicle sitting there in its normal parking place AND there’s a chance that I’ll walk outside tomorrow morning to find that my vehicle is not sitting there and has been stolen? Both of these are actual possibilities (out of sea of infinite possibilities of what condition my vehicle might be in….maybe a tornado will suck it up and toss it a mile away…who really knows, right?), but in general, I’d expect that I could count on my vehicle being there. It’s a very predictable thing, one that I don’t give much thought too generally. Now, if I walk out and it’s missing, then that was not expected and suddenly my awareness is focused on my missing vehicle and those should statements are salivating at the thought that they’re about to be expressed (I should have parked in a more secure area; I should have made sure I locked my doors, etc.).
Both options are totally feasible but when the predictable doesn’t happen, that is a moment when you’re witnessing the creative forces of the Universe. (Notice I’m not saying that “creative” is always sunshine, puppies and rainbows). Remember, it is actually a tremendous privilege to have the capacity to experience such a wide range of feelings and emotions. As a culture, we have told ourselves (in a collective story) that we should avoid those uncomfortable feelings at all cost. Do you think it’s a coincidence that so many people are addicted to things or that so many people are instantly prescribed a pill to “make them feel better”? Universal creativity can be painful so why add to your own suffering by using that word should?
All of those moments in your life that you can reflect upon when things didn’t work out the way they should have were moments when your story involved a creative plot twist thanks to none other than the Universe (OK, to be fair, we play a big part in creating our realities but that’s also another blog post). All of the moments in your life that you barely even notice anymore because they’re so “normal” are moments when your story is predictable thanks again to the Universe. (I suggest a documentary titled The Quantum Activist if you want to dive into this stuff deeper).
So more on my story about the buses to further explain this point. I did resist the situation and felt angry….all along there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation so I was the cause of my own suffering. Why does this kind of “creative crap” happen to us then? (and by the way…all of the fabulous unexpected surprises in your life were also moments of creativity too!) Wouldn’t it be easier to handle the not so enjoyable creative plot twists if we knew why they were happening?
Concept #5: Faith in the Universe’s influence on your life story comes in the form of not always knowing why.
So think about your typical day. You pretty much assume you know what’s going to happen and when it does work out that way everything in your story/life feels right or everything is going according to plan. So when those creative things happen, the first thing most of us ask is, “Why did this have to happen?” We want a reason immediately so that we can make sense out of the situation (and usually so we’ll know who to blame but that’s yet another blog topic).
Why did some people survive 9/11 and some not? Why did I have to step in that huge pile of dog crap on my way to work? Why did my partner have to die so young from cancer? Why did that random person win the lottery but I never have? See, these are the questions that people get hung up on all the time. What we’re really asking is why in this moment did the Universe throw a creative plot twist into my story instead of the predictable chapter? What we’re asking is why didn’t my story unfold the way it should have?
Sometimes we do get an immediate answer (if we’re paying attention that is), and many times we do not. When we don’t get that answer of “why” it is often experienced as pain. We can go through all kinds of possible reasons (all of these are you trying to re-write your own story again to make it match your experiences by the way), but in the end, we have to make peace with “what is.” One powerful way to make peace with “what is” is to stop saying the word should and replace it with is. So back to my bus story.
After steaming for a few minutes, the kids finally boarded and the buses moved. I was on my merry way to the store when the very next stop light there was an accident with fire trucks and an ambulance. It was at this point I started giggling because I realized what was happening. More creative plot twists. I decided to just stop resisting and took some deep breaths to just be with this moment, and when I got to the store I was roaming around looking for one item when a random woman stopped me to ask a question about a red bow she was going to purchase and wear in her hair. I told her I didn’t work at the store and she said, “I know, I just want your opinion because I work in an office with all men and we’re wearing our favorite team colors on Friday. I just wanted to make sure it didn’t look too stupid, but at the same time I want to express my womanhood.” I smiled and said, “You get your woman on and wear that bow in your hair!” She walked away with a huge smile on her face feeling empowered.
So speaking of synchronicities and getting an answer to my question of why, what are the chances that I’d be held up that long so many times just to get to the store and run into this woman who was asking for an affirmation that it was OK to express herself in the midst of an all-male office? It just happened that I too have worked in those situations and it just so happened that out of everyone she could ask, I understood the intricate layers of “stuff” that come up for a woman who works in this environment. It also just happens that I’m all about empowering women to dare to be their most authentic selves at all times, so for me, I felt like I got my answer to “why” all of these creative plot twists were happening and it made me realize that if I hadn’t gotten hung up on the word should, if I hadn’t tried to write my own story, if I had simply just accepted “what is” instead of resisting it, I could have spared myself all of the negative feelings as none of that really changed anything. It was clear to me why arriving at the store 20 minutes earlier would probably have meant missing that part of the plot where this woman’s story and mine shared center stage for just a few moments.
So what if you tried to go one full day and then two full days and three without uttering (either out loud or especially in your mind) the word should? What if when you realized you were saying it (because trust me...you will…we ALL will), you replaced it with, “Nope, I’m simply going to pick up this book of my life’s story and read it page by page and simply accept ‘what is’ in the present as it unfolds on the pages without trying to write the next page myself?” What if you exercised that thing called faith in the Universe and simply accepted that there will be times of predictability as well as times of creativity and that whatever happens was only a tiny part of the unfolding of 7 billion people’s stories that are all interconnected because we’re all sharing this tiny little blue orb hanging so delicately in the deep blackness of space? What if (even if your monkey mind is judging this entire blog post as ridiculous right now) you just tried this should thing out and you started noticing that the amount of time spent in negativity-land was decreasing? I think you should try it.