A new way to face reality with less stress and anxiety.
What if we could find a way to experience life that reduced our stress and anxiety? That would be good, wouldn't it?
First though, we would need to know what causes our stress and anxiety. My understanding is that we only suffer when we argue with reality. Reality being exactly what is happening right this very moment. Not some future projection or some past experience but whatever is presenting itself right here and now.
If that is an agreed description of reality, then reality for me right now is sitting at my desk and typing on my keyboard. I can hear the birds twittering away outside the open window. I can feel my feet against the floor and my back resting against the chair. I can feel the sensation of my fingers as they brush against the keys, and my wrists as they rub against the desk. Anything else that might be happening is happening inside my head - thoughts and emotions, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with reality. In fact, the mind is the only place that I can possibly oppose reality.
My body doesn't argue with the present moment. It sits, it types, it breathes, it stretches. But my mind does. It is thinking all kinds of thoughts that argue with the reality of the moment. It might tell me that I need to finish this piece quickly so that I can move on to other work. It might tell me this piece that I am writing is rubbish. It might tell me that I should be a faster typer. It can invent a million ways to argue with reality, and if I believed any of these thoughts then I would start to suffer.
Before I believe the thought I am free and happy in the moment - after I believe the thought then I experience pain and suffering, suddenly this perfect moment is no longer perfect. But, it is only by believing the thought that this happens.
The thought could be there, just as much as an itch on my shoulder can be there - it is just a sensation, energy passing through. I can itch the scratch, I can even acknowledge the negative thought but I don't have to make it the only reality.
Although these are quite benign examples, they demonstrate the basics of the principle. But, as we know, life often throws more extreme circumstances at us that challenge our ability to stay present. Perhaps a friend tells you that they are disappointed in you because you didn't call them last week to see how they were after you found out that they weren't feeling well. Your first response may be defensiveness, then anger, perhaps some guilt too. You feel bad, they feel bad. Your peaceful morning has gone to the dogs.
You are churned up inside, you don't like confrontation, and you don't like upsetting people. You might be resigned to the entire rest of your day going to shit too, as you know yourself well enough to know you will beat yourself up for a day or two about this transgression, and god knows how many people you could take this out on too while you work your way through it.
That's how you used to roll. It doesn't have to be that way though. This is a perfect opportunity to turn everything around and utilise it to free yourself rather than punish yourself.
When it comes down to it, the pain and suffering arises because you are believing a certain thought. It is never about the other person. It can't be. It is the thoughts in your head that are causing the pain. The ego initially thinks to blame the other person - 'how dare they have a go at me', 'how dare they accuse me of not caring, don't they know what kind of week I had?'.....
The ego can go to war forever and ever. Blame and anger are almost too easy. We can remain trapped in blame and anger and justifying ourselves for the whole rest of our lives. It is these thoughts when left unquestioned and uninvestigated that destroy our peace of mind.
When we look a bit deeper there are underlying beliefs, and these are the ones causing the most damage, these are the ones where we are fighting reality. Thoughts such as - friends should understand me, friends shouldn't take offence to me, friends shouldn't argue with me, friends should know I am a good person, friends shouldn't doubt me.
All of these are thoughts we have that argue with reality. The truth is that friends do misunderstand you, friends do argue, friends do take offence. Opposing that truth is painful. Reality just is, it doesn't care whether we accept it or not.
We cannot control what other people think of us, or what they think about what we do. It isn't even really our business what they do with their thoughts and feelings. Much as we would like to think we can control people and situations, and make them work for us, so they don't destroy our serenity. All we can really work on is what thoughts we have that oppose reality.
When we can start to become clearer about the thoughts we have that cause us stress, their grip suddenly loosens. Suddenly every thought that causes us stress is now an opportunity to let go, rather than an excuse to punish ourselves.
Uncomfortable as suffering is, when it does occur it is a beautiful reminder to ourselves that we must still be believing some thought that is opposing reality. If we heed the call of that reminder then we can start to experience that everything that is happening is actually happening for us and not to us. It is the universe waking us up to ourselves and gently prodding us along by showing us where we are still fighting reality, where we are still caught, where we are still opposing reality.
This isn't a one time cure. It is a moment to moment awareness. Feel the stress, tension and anxiety, and investigate what underlying thought and belief are we having that is opposing this present moment reality. Treated with loving-kindness and gentle acceptance these thoughts can become our greatest teachers.