“What you must understand is . . . that peace is a choice you make.”
One of my favorite quotes is from psychologist Carl Rogers, who said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.”
That statement has always had a sort of zen quality to me. Lately it’s also become a recurring question in my mind relating to things I hear or read, especially in spiritual literature, about making peace with where I am. In fact a friend wrote to me recently after a blog post, and he was wondering if I really buy into this business about the best way to improve a bad situation being to let go of needing things to be different in order to feel better
I’m a sucker for a good paradox, so I asked the Shower Team, “How are we supposed to make peace with where we are when where we are sucks?” (Note to self: Reduce usage of word “suck” in future blog posts) . . . .
Making peace with where you are doesn’t mean what you tend to assume that it means. You hear that and you interpret it to mean that you’re just supposed to be resigned to whatever fate you feel is being thrust upon you or you are just supposed to grin like an idiot and babble affirmations no matter how miserable you are. A much better way to say it is, “Make peace with YOU—wherever you are.” Because the point is, that YOU are truly fine . . . truly okay . . . truly blessed . . . truly loved and supported . . . no matter where you are. No matter what you’ve created. No matter what kind of mess you feel you’ve made. No matter how long or hard you’ve been struggling. No matter how beaten up or abandoned you feel. No matter how worthless or stupid or inept or foolish you feel—or believe others feel that you are.
Too often what most of you try to do is to improve how you feel from the outside in. You observe the conditions or circumstances that you are experiencing and your knee jerk reaction is to say, “I’ll feel better when that’s different.” Or “I’ll feel better when this is no longer the case.” So you change your hair style or your wardrobe. You go on a diet. You buy a new house. You quit your job. You leave your mate. You move to another neighborhood or city or state or country. Some of you would head for another planet if you could—always trusting in the same illusion: that it’s where you are that makes the difference. “If I can just be over there, not here—everything will be fine. I’LL be fine as soon as I’m over there.”
It is very hard for you to hear us say, “It doesn’t matter where you are” and understand it much less believe it. You hear words like “wherever you go, there are you are,” and you laugh and you recognize some truth in it but then you go right back to shopping for your new clothes or your new partner or your new career . . . What we want so much for you to understand is that, while these externals may distract you from how bad you feel or in some cases, even allow you to take the much longer route to feeling better about yourself—there is a much simpler, swifter way for you to get your bearings and to feel the power that you always have to feel better no matter what’s going on in your life.
YOU are never a mess. YOU never need a makeover. YOU never need to be anything other than who YOU really are. And until you allow yourself to be at peace with YOU—apart from any circumstance or condition or situation . . . until you understand that YOU are blessed and adored and supported and perfect as YOU are, then you will be constantly striving for some other way to be. You will be constantly trying to remodel your life based on the mistaken belief that how your house looks to passers by has anything to do with how it feels as a home. You can create a showplace that anyone looking at from the outside in will admire and applaud. And it will still feel like an empty, hollow, cold, lonely space until you understand that YOU are the life in it. You are the warmth in it. You are the spirit that inhabits your life and makes it livable.
What you must understand is that YOU are your home, that peace is a choice you make . . . . . it is a recognition that what matters is how you feel in your skin and in your heart . . . and that everything you really want is right there where you are.
When you understand that you don’t need anything to change in order to be at peace, that there are no renovations needed, no permits to apply for, no sins to confess and atone for, no sentences to serve or fines to pay, then you are free to change anything you want, simply because you enjoy the changing of it. It becomes a game you’re free to play because it’s fun to play it . . . not an act of desperation or a deception that anything going on around you in any way determines who you really are or a driving need to match your life to something you’ve seen in a catalog or a movie or an infomercial or a sacred text or a self-help book–or for that matter, a blog. Make peace with YOU, wherever you are because if you don’t, you’ll have no real peace, no matter where you are.
Wonder if that blog crack was intended for anyone in particular . . . I’ve certainly learned the long and hard way that I can’t move far enough away from anything that’s holding me back from feeling the way I want to feel about my life. I’m still not sure how much happiness money might buy—it’s a theory I wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to test somewhere down the road. In the meantime, it seems worth the effort to see how much I can like the me in the middle of whatever it is I’m not liking. And that leaves Me/Us, for the moment, paradoxically complete.
Parting aFLOWmation: “You dropped your peace–pick it up.”
“There is never anything about you that is lacking or failing except your decision to believe you are lacking or failing.”
Do you ever wonder (imagine my best Andy Rooney impersonation) why it is that we seem to have so many moments in our lives when happiness feels like something we’ve lost and just don’t know how to find?
It’s sort of like the keys we’ve misplaced or the item on our To Do list that we just can’t seem to remember. Try and try as we may to find it-or to remember where we put it, it continues to elude us. We search and search, we read books (and blogs) about how to find it. We go to workshops, we seek out gurus, thinking maybe we’ll stumble upon it, but often those efforts have the opposite effect-they only seem to make us more aware of what we feel is missing.
I asked The Shower Team to help me get a handle on how we get ourselves into such a lost place. How can such a seemingly simple, easy idea as being happy, be so hard to get our hands on?
“Where is my happiness?” you ask. And we say, “Right where you left it.” Then you say, “But I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve looked and looked. I’ve done everything I can think of to do. I’ve paid attention to what other people told me. I’ve listened to advice. I’ve read dozens of books. I’ve made continual efforts to be and to do and to have the things that I believe would bring my happiness to me . . . “
And we say, “There’s your trouble.” You’re looking for happiness the way you tend to look for love: in all the wrong places.
The one thing you so often neglect in all your striving to be happy is to allow yourself to know what you already know-that happiness has nothing to do with any of the ‘things’ you believe it is attached to. You believe a lie when you set out to find happiness by acquiring anything outside of yourself. You confuse ‘happiness’ with the always fleeting satisfaction of some achievement or acquisition or some change in your circumstances.
By doing so, you live as though it were law that your conditions control you. You are basically creating a life based on conditional love, on the notion that you are completely subject to whatever conditions you encounter. Another way of saying this is that you are a victim of circumstances, a prisoner of whatever momentary conditions you are finding in the world you came forth to enjoy.
When you decide that happiness is attached to anything-ANYTHING-outside your own knowing of who you really are . . . then you have essentially decided to remain unhappy for the duration of your time on this planet, because there will never be a ‘happiness’ from any external source that stays around long enough to truly satisfy you. As soon as you have achieved or acquired or somehow manipulated your circumstances in some way that you like, something will change or you will become bored or the variety of your experience will once again point out to you something you want that is not yet present. And as long as you are continuing to agree with the idea that you can only be happy when you have something you don’t currently have . . . then the happiness that you desire will continually elude you.
You set up this vicious cycle for yourselves and then you shake your fists at the forces of the Universe that you are convinced are conspiring to prevent you from having what you think will make you happy. But in fact, your happiness is always right there, waiting for you to see it and feel it. . . waiting for you to claim what is your birthright, your true nature, waiting for you to stop long enough to recognize that what you want is never lost, never gone, never out of reach . . . only that you have removed your attention from it.
You will argue and argue about “the real world” that you must live in and you will insist that the ‘things’ you want or the things you think you need are necessary for happiness in that ‘real world’ when in fact that ‘real world’ is simply an illusion that you have decided is fact. You have decided that happiness is contingent upon some particular or specific sort of experience in that world, when You always know the truth-that you brought your happiness with you when you came forth into this world and that you will take it with you when you leave . . . that in fact ‘happiness’ or joy or the unfailing sense of boundless wellbeing is really the only continuity that you have from one lifetime to the next.
You can always choose ‘happiness’ as easily as you are choosing dissatisfaction or despair or discouragement or frustration or sorrow or anger. But you don’t wish to believe this because to do so makes you solely responsible for whether or not joy is the nature of your experience. When you can no longer blame the conditions of your life for how you feel . . . then you must accept the reality that you do in fact create your reality. Then there is no one left to ‘blame’ but you for the experience you are having.
You can use any situation you choose as your excuse for holding yourselves back from joy. But it will never change the fact that joy is still available to you if you choose it-no matter what circumstances you may find yourselves in.
And you will say, “But how can anyone be expected to be joyful under these conditions??” And we say, “The same way you expect-and thereby create-any other outcome: by the attention that you are giving.” You can choose to continue striving and struggling to make your circumstances what you think they need to be in order to feel good. Most of you take that approach, and even though it’s the longer, harder route, most of you still manage to do pretty well.
However, when the striving and struggling no longer seems to be working, and you find yourselves feeling lost or separated from what your heart truly desires, it is always because you have decided-consciously or not-that what you ‘need’ to feel good is something you are missing. And what we most want to remind you of and to help you remember, is that nothing you ‘need’ is ever truly missing. There is never anything about you that is lacking or failing except your decision to believe you are lacking or failing.
You get to decide the criteria for your joy or success. You decide who decides whether your life is a happy one or not. You can give that power away. You can look around at others and compare your experience to theirs and you can decide that yours doesn’t measure up somehow-even though you have no clue what their experience really is.
Or you can decide that your experience is really the only one that counts when it comes to how it feels to you. And you can decide that you want to feel good about that experience, no matter where it stands at any given moment. The fact of the matter is that nothing you’re experiencing, nothing you’ve created is permanent. Your experience is by nature temporary, whether it is currently described by you as good or bad. Either way, it is fleeting. Something else is always on the way.
You can have much greater influence on what is on the way, by choosing to see yourself as already being all that you need to be in order to feel happy. You CAN choose that perspective. You can practice a point of view where there is nothing lacking, where you have all that you ‘need’ right there with you and in you. You cannot hold that perspective and at the same time feel the lack or shortage of joy or satisfaction. You cannot see yourself as you really are and not feel happiness.
You can continue to reach for things outside yourself, to strive for things you have not yet held in your hands or observed in your experience and you can continue to tell yourself that happiness will only come as a result of that thing you are striving for. And as long as you do this, you will keep wondering-over and over and over-”where is my happiness?”
Or you can recognize that the asking of that question is the ‘problem’ for as long as you continue to ask it, you are actually refusing to see the answer-right there in front of you, waiting for you to claim it and feel it-right where you left it.
You’ve probably noticed-like me-that in practically every case where I think I’ve lost something-where I can’t find something that I want-in virtually every case, nobody else had taken it. No one else had secretly or furtively or maliciously or even mistakenly appropriated what I was looking for. It was right where I’d put it.
And each time that I eventually found it, more often than not I remembered putting it there. I recognized that the ‘losing’ of it and the finding of it-was all up to me.
It’s both a comforting and a somewhat sobering thought-the idea that the only Lost and Found box that matters is the one I make, and that no one has access to it but me. There’s something about it that helps me feel a little more found-or at least that suggests I know where to go for whatever I’m looking for. Who knew that being told where to go could feel so good?
Parting aFLOWmation: “Happiness is usually the last place you look.”