Accepting The Things We Cannot Change

Last week we all had spring flashes and this week it’s welcome back to winter.  As usual, our weather here in the Black Hills is an adventure.  Wherever you are when you are reading this, my guess is you could say the same for your area.  Weather is a great example of how circumstances beyond our control affect our lives.  We can worry about it or get angry with it or defy it.  But in the end there isn’t a thing we can do to change or even influence it.  We can play with our clocks and give ourselves the illusion of control, but no matter what the clock says daylight will arrive and retreat on it’s own time.

Are there other areas of our lives over which we have no control?  Of course.  We dislike admitting it, but, for the most part going out into each day is an act of faith.  We might have a daily routine or what we imagine is a well-laid plan for the day, but in reality we will be lucky if things go the way we planned.  Yup – lucky.  Everyone wants to think that it is their own genius responsible for things going their way, but ultimately there is always at least a little luck involved.  Of course, we can prepare ourselves to take the best advantage of chips falling our way.  But ultimately no one – not even the most careful and detailed planner – can predict the future.

So how can we move forward when everything is really uncertain?  We could approach each day with trepidation and fear, worrying about every possible detail in hopes that worrying will somehow make a difference in the outcome.  Unfortunately, that never works.  Can you think of a single time when worrying about some unwanted concern actually prevented it from happening?  Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but either way the worrying you did in advance didn’t change anything.  All it did was stress you out.  And if what you worried about doesn’t actually occur (which is most often the case) then you stressed out needlessly.  And what about events occurring that weren’t even on your radar screen?  You didn’t even have a chance to worry yet here you are, having to deal with it anyway.  It might surprise you to see yourself somehow managing the challenge, whatever it is.  All of us can look back through our lives and find examples where that was true.  We’ve all had the experience of living through something we never would have thought we could handle.  Yet somehow we did.

Of course, I do my share of worrying, too.  And this is not to say that events shouldn’t make us angry or sad.  It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother planning. But a plan is like a path through the woods.  You don’t always know where it’s going to take you. Have you ever had the experience of following a route on a map but ending up someplace completely different from what you expected?  Outcomes can be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean that the journey wasn’t worth taking.

Life is so full of uncertainties and none of us really knows what it’s all about. In the end, though, it all comes down to learning to go with the flow.  Which for me is a practice.  Not something I’ll ever be perfect at, but something to keep striving for and working at.  Accepting the good, the bad and the ugly of whatever life hands you and doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with at any given time.  We can’t change the past or predict the future. And as much as we’d like to imagine we can control the behavior of others, that, too, is impossible.  Most of us can barely control ourselves.  Think of all the times you’ve said something you didn’t mean to say or done something you didn’t mean to do.

As Joni Mitchell writes in the song “Woodstock”:  “I don’t know who l am, But you know life is for learning”.  Treating life as an adventure is not always easy, but it might help to remember that nothing ever stays the same.  Everything is always changing.  Remember the weather.  As Mark Twain (or whoever it was) said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.  It will change.”  Have a “Plan B” whenever possible, but no matter what happens, being kind to yourself and all those around you is always a good plan.  Focus on the things you can control like your attitude, your own behavior, your actions and reactions.  Attend to the journey and let the outcomes be what they are.

The Benefits of Self-Care

Just a short post today to remind you all that every moment you spend being kind to yourself has a multiplier effect. 

Last Fall I visited the Yoga Loft in Bethlehem, PA, and still receive their weekly e-mails.  This quote comes from Alyssa Pfeiffer, one of the teachers there:

“when we take the time to practice self care it not only benefits us but it benefits everyone we are in relationship with… from our families, friends, and co-workers to the person waiting on you at your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. The ripple effect of you nourishing and nurturing yourself will be felt by many other beings.”

This was followed by a quote from the Dalai Lama:
This is something I’ve talked about many times in this blog, but it’s worth repeating.  If you think you’re being selfish by taking the time to nourish your own psyche, think again.  You can’t give what you haven’t got.  The benefits of taking an exercise class, for example, can have an impact beyond improving your own health.  It can lift your mood, give you extra energy, and help you to feel good about yourself.  Your body will thank you for enabling the movement of muscles, bones as well as improved blood flow and brain activity.  All of these good feelings will radiate out and impact everything around you.  Whatever you do afterwards can be accomplished with greater ease and clarity.  Also you’ll be setting a positive example for everyone you encounter.  And the people you interact with may have a better day themselves because of your influence.  They will then spread their good feelings.  And so on, and so on.  The simple act of taking an hour or so to focus on yourself and your own well-being can have far-reaching effects.  Seems like a bargain to me!  Your ripple effect may even result in positive outcomes that you don’t even know about.
We all have numerous demands on our time.  It can be difficult to prioritize when everything seems so important.  Recently I listened to an interview with Buddhist teacher Stephen Batchelor on the program “On Being“.  Among other things, he talked about a practice he had learned in which he would reflect each day on the following:  “Death is certain; its time is uncertain: What should I do?”  A call to action of sorts.  How can we maximize our limited time here on the planet?  It is obviously important to do what we can to help others and make the world a better place.  But in order to do justice to that huge task we each need to be at our best.  Contribute to your own well-being and the world will benefit.