Acceptance of the Yin and Yang of life is where peace lives. We can’t just intellectually understand that there must be black to be white, there must be up to be down, and there must be happy to be sad. We have to live knowing that’s the Truth.
Your problem isn’t what’s happening. It’s that you want something. You’re attached to an outcome. You want an experience different than the one you’re having.
The act of wanting; the act of not accepting something is to create arguments for yourself in your head about how things should be different than they are. In short: you think thoughts about other outcomes and then you compare them to what did happen, and you tell yourself a story that the universe disappointed you, when what you really mean is that you didn’t get what you wanted. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. Because there is no way for the Universe to keep everyone happy.
Obviously the first time we run into two thirsty people and one drinking fountain, we know that the world is guaranteed to present situations in which not everyone can win. In fact we often cannot get what we want. So what are our options?
Well, option one is to tell ourselves egocentric stories about what we’d rather have. But those stories are angry, disappointed, hurt, spiteful etc. etc. etc. And you feel what you think, so the stories will make us feel angry, disappointed, hurt and spiteful etc. and that doesn’t seem like a wise or healthy option. And if we indulge in it too often, it’ll eat us away from the inside. It’s why a lot of New Yorker’s don’t like the remembrance “celebrations” around 9/11. The healthiest among them want to leave that behind them now so they can move on to more enjoyable feelings that are less likely to divide humanity.
Option two would be to ignore argument mode and head for intake mode instead. Rather than using our brains to argue about what is, we could instead find a way to appreciate what is. That doesn’t mean a situation is something you would seek to repeat, but if your only option is to endure then you might as well add some appreciation to the mix. At least that makes everything taste better.
Even if you make the egocentric choice, there’s no need to panic. Whether you get angry or relax, you never cease to be a spiritual being having a human experience. The only difference is, is the human conscious of the creation of the experience, or do they actually think they are the thoughts? But either way, no thoughts are superior to others. They simply have consequences, and some of those consequences we enjoy and others we do not. The only advantage to being awakened is that then we can choose more joy. It does not guarantee that we do not suffer. It just means that we won’t suffer any more than we have to.
Wake up. Accept actual suffering to the point that when it arrives, you can work around it as easily as you can work around rain. Just put on a raincoat and continue as usual. You were never going to win the argument in your head anyway. You would need a new history.
Do your utmost to create a wonderful day. And if it’s not a wonderful day, then do your best to shrug it off with the knowledge and acceptance that of course sometimes it rains. We all experience pain. So you don’t have to argue your way to sunshine. You just have to keep your eye very actively watching for joy’s inevitable return.
Here are some of Alan Watts thoughts on Suffering:
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.