Feeling like you can’t control anything is the very worst.
It feels pretty alone: we all have different highs and lows in life, and excel in different areas. Some of us have our careers nailed: for others, it’s family or relationships. And it’s not linear, sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down.
And sometimes, things happen that make you feel like you’ve been blown off course completely. You can’t count on the people you thought you could; you’ve learned something new that’s changed everything. You’ve outgrown your surroundings or you’re just feeling underwhelmed.
That’s when big, huge changes can feel like the most rational and least achievable decisions to make. If I could just get to *there*, or if *this* would just happen, then being *here* wouldn’t feel like it was in vain.
Nobody talks about feeling vulnerable or wants to show weakness. If we did, maybe we would all get ahead quicker. Maybe we could teach each other. But we don’t.
There’s a book by a meditation and mindfulness leader named Tara Brach that solves the problem, for the moment. It’s called Radical Acceptance, and it asks the question,
“What would it be like if I could accept life – accept this moment – exactly as it is?”
For a split second, you stop fighting, and your soul exhales.
Just Press Pause
It starts with a pause. Instead of reacting, you open your heart and feel the moment. You might become still, or more attentive. You notice, without judging, what’s going on around you. Then when you resume, you can act from a more reasoned place.
The pause takes practice, Brach says, but eventually it will lift us out of the trance where we react from habit.
The pause highlights the things we’re thinking and give us a chance to notice whether they’re rational, or if we’re providing narration to what’s going on.
If we have thoughts that we can’t know to be true, they’re probably not. They’re probably our interpretation of what’s going on, and may be based on a whole bunch of baggage. Even if we’re interpreting a situation correctly, we might still be seeing it through the wrong coloured glasses.
When we start to recognise our thoughts as narration, we rely more on our senses to experience the things that are happening. Our thoughts are still important, but we’re also more likely to pay attention to the sounds, smells, and taste of life that we might have been too worked up to appreciate before.
Invite Your Enemies To Tea
Brach says that we can accept the moment, when appropriate, by just saying yes to it. Even when the moment sucks, and the feelings hurt. If we feel them, and say yes to them, we acknowledge them and they abate. Then we don’t have to spend time running from or blocking them out.
Brach calls it ‘Inviting Mara to tea’. Mara is the name of the demon that tempted Buddha to stray from the path of learning enlightenment. Even after Mara had failed, he would still revisit the Buddha from time to time to see if he could shake him off his zen perch. The Buddha would acknowledge and welcome Mara, and treat him as a guest. Brach says that we too, can welcome Mara as a reminder of our practice and progress.
It’s a lot easier to personify a shitty feeling or sense of inadequacy as Mara than it is to think it’s a deep lack of your own. It turns a new situation into a familiar feeling that you have practice dealing with, so you know you can conquer it. And it’s a nice concept, too, that we might all have this visitor, and so we’re not alone in battling it. Instead of blocking sadness, you can feel it so you can deal with it. And when it comes back, you can recognise it for what it is.
The book is empathetic, elegant. You feel like it’s going to be okay. Tara Brach also has a podcast that is split between discussions of mindfulness and Buddhist practice, and meditations that help you practice what you’ve learned. It’s nice listening to someone who sounds like she has it figured out.
With Radical Acceptance, after the moment has passed, nothing about your actual life has changed. You have the same job, the same friends, the same living arrangement. But you might gain a new perspective or just a sliver or a new thought – and maybe that makes all the difference.
“These occasions can be so stunning, so liberating, these moments when you realise that your life is just fine as it is, thank you…”
Check out the ebook
Check out the podcast here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/tara-brach/id265264862