This is about how to live in an accepting state of mind. Because from that perspective absolutely everything is some form of good news. Will the universe occasionally derail a direction we were going? For sure. But why assume that’s a bad thing? Why, if you miss making a green light, do you assume you’ll possibly be late for work, rather than that you possibly just missed being in an accident?
Acceptance is what you do when you’re grateful for your life even if it isn’t lining up with what you fantasized would or should happen. When you don’t imagine much in your future, and you don’t use words in your head to argue with yourself about things not being the way you did imagine them, what’s left is: the world. And it turns out that if you are quiet-minded then you’re also very likely to have profoundly rewarding experiences almost anywhere, doing almost anything. Even stuff that most people call bad.
Here’s a common one I see. Maybe you’re a mid-thirties woman who has never been married, or is now divorced. But you imagined being married and well on your way to that life you’d imagined as a kid where you could host the family for Christmas and show off your smart, well-behaved kids. But now here you are, unattached, at a job that doesn’t inspire you, childless, or maybe a single mom, and you’re telling yourself that you’ve failed when really it’s just that you’re not currently understanding.
All of those judgments about your life about you being a failure or you being wrong because of the way you are—those all take place in the confines of your consciousness. They are only thoughts. They only have the power you give them by turning them into actions or by allowing them to lead to even more damaging narratives. But if you just see them and let them pass, you can then take your consciousness and focus it on something rewarding instead. That ability to choose is at the heart of who and what you are.
A good example is my own life. I was recently fired from a job I loved. That’s something that would bother most people. But I live with acceptance. Here’s how that works: If I’m a primarily ego-based person, then I am my various identities, and any threat to those identities is perceived as a threat to me. So if someone attacks my job—one of our primary identifiers—then I’m likely to be upset. Also, if we associate happiness with the job—which I definitely did—then we also feel we’re losing that. And so we will tell ourselves stories about what we’ll miss about the job, or how we feel it’s all unfair, or that we weren’t respected etc. etc. The pain will often emerge as depression or blame or anger.
So what did I do differently? When I learned it I heard it fully. Meaning I didn’t just think of it as existing from only my perspective, like a raindrop hitting my head. I knew that raindrop was condensed in the sky by certain specific conditions and then it fell a great distance before I was involved. Buddhist Causality as it were. So in this case I quickly knew the condensation point.
You see, I’m attempting to accomplish something very important in my life and in the life of my best friend. It’s my intention to have us both completely out of any debt within a few years, and so I have been working four jobs for some time. This obviously stretches my time ridiculously and each week is a matter of choosing which things won’t get done. Every week it’s 50 marbles and a 40 marble jar. My prioritization of those marbles is based on how important to the world I believe each marble is. This means administrative tasks are often left to last because they are the recording of existence, but they not much existence in and of themselves.
Despite the 1.5 hour commute each way, I loved my job at the college. In a life that was jammed packed with some of life’s heaviest responsibilities, the students were these refreshingly brilliant, highly motivated and enthusiastic souls that were a complete pleasure to teach. And I was proud of my work there, especially my nearly perfect student feedback scores. I cared about those kids and it’s important to me that they knew that.
I’ve had the most senior broadcasting job there is in film and television production and as only the people who’ve had it know, the knowledge that job exposed me to was much more useful than any other experience could have been. In a way, it was an amalgamation of everyone’s experience. And because I was sharing that with the class, they got a lot during their time with me. And so I have zero regrets about the job itself. I was passionate about teaching those students as much as I could in the time we had together. I cared about their emotional well being at that same time, and I did all I could to try to communicate to them the greatness I saw in each and every one of them. But all that said, I did not get my p0st-semester reports written. And I was aware I needed more rest.
These reports describe how the year went and what I felt I learned. These are essentially me writing down my own life lesson so that it can be put into a file and no one will really ever look at it. So in my world I do an assessment: I could take the time away from the students and do the report instead. But the report barely makes the universe better and that’s if it does at all. But time with the students can change them, and their films can change the world. I won’t pretend it wasn’t an easy choice. The kids got as much time as I could find for them. The administration—theirs and my own—was largely put in boxes to be gotten-to when I had fewer jobs and healthier parents.
Now, that’s my world and my decisions. But I work for a college and a Dean. And my Dean’s a nice guy. He cares about the kids. But he’s got responsibilities that go with the title of Dean. He needs his reports so that he can check off his boxes so his boss knows that he did his job. That’s how it is when organizations get big. There’s more and more administrative time spent proving things happened than there is in making them happen. It’s like that everywhere. So I totally get why the Dean needs these reports, and even why his boss needs them. And I thought he was fantastically patient with me. He virtually begged me to get them in. But with parents that need me more and more, plus all of those other jobs, him wanting them didn’t change the fact that only once did those reports ever rank high enough in priority that I worked on them. I’m always trying to learn from my experiences so, whether I wrote it down or not, I agreed with the concept the request was based on. It’s really a request that people be conscious about their development as an instructor and I fully support that. But I didn’t get the reports done and so I cannot blame the Dean. This is a natural, logical progression of events. So how do I handle this spiritually?
As I noted above, I take what happens in my life as something I have chosen. I immediately begin to look at the upsides. So when I learned about it, the very first thought was about how much I’ll miss the feeling of being with the class. It was very inspiring. But I also quickly realized why the Dean had to do what he did and I immediately agreed with him, and I felt compassion for the fact that I undoubtedly generated some grief in his life over the issue. I was also sorry for the future kids who would lose out on the benefit of my unique experience and how much I genuinely care about them, but I also knew that they had other really great instructors and that I was also simultaneously struggling to find enough time in my own schedule.
I kept looking at ditching one of the other jobs because I associated the teaching job with the most fun. I didn’t want to lose the fun. But once it happened it quickly dawned on me that—time-wise and financially—it was by far the best choice to make. It’s given me more time to focus on important projects and as much as I still know it would be awesome to be with a class again, my life feels better now than it did then. Plus, the fact that it happened the way it did, that caused a ton of people to call and write to me to express their love and support, and I wouldn’t likely have had that happen if I had decided to leave. Overall it’s turned out to be just the right thing at just the right time and I’m grateful it all happened. Because I love my past classes so much that I just know I would have continued to work there long after it made sense. Now’s a better time than what I would have likely chosen.
So that’s how you face something you might initially think you don’t want. So just like anyone, when I first learned it I got an initial emotional wallop. And then that feeling told me to check in with my thinking to see where I was at. That was fortunately already pretty calm, and then I just did an assessment as though there was no “me” involved and when I thought it through and it all made sense. And then I immediately started looking for and then noticing the upsides of the situation, now that I was seeing things from a different perspective. And I was pretty much happy within minutes and it’s all worked out better than the direction I was going.
So: some of those mornings when the power goes out while you’re asleep and your alarm clock doesn’t ring? Some of those mornings you’re better off than you would have been if you’d woken up on time. Trust the universe. It’s bountiful. Don’t feel cheated by un-met promises you made to yourself. Feel grateful for the opportunity to make a conscious step in your journey. Because the more you’re awake for those choices the better and more alive your life will be. Trust me, when they play that if you could be anyone in the world who would you be? game, I’m the guy who keeps picking my own life.
Forget about what you thought would happen. Be present with what is happening and you will live a life of startling clarity and reward. I can tell you this from experience. Let go. Bring the Present Moment into your consciousness. It is filled with abundance. Be grateful.
PS I actually wanted to write to the Dean to make sure he didn’t feel guilty but I never had time, so this way I get a blog done too. You see, there it is again; there are so many bits of good-fortune in every day if only we’re awake to greet them.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.