Everything in my life would be so simple if only everyone did exactly what I want them to do all the time. In fact, that’s so obvious that I can’t really believe I have never said it before. If you people would just do things the way I want them done, then I wouldn’t have all this stress.
Why can’t you conform to MY expectations? Why won’t you give up your own needs, desires, and wants in order to meet mine? If you won’t do that, then LIFE IS NOT FAIR.
And you know what that means……I’ll have to be all stressed out about life not being fair.
It isn’t really just people, though. I want the DOG to do what I want. And I really, REALLY want the weather to do things the way that I prefer them. Like I’ve really just about HAD IT with the snow. We are in the middle of yet another blizzard (can I stand to write another blizzard post?) and I want it to JUST STOP. STOP IT!!!
And that’s where the whole house of cards breaks down. Becomes pretty funny, actually, when the absurdity is revealed.
I can rail at the weather all I want but it isn’t going to have any effect. The weather is what it is. I can rail about the dog, too, and I could even do something to separate myself from him or train him to behave differently, but my major complaint is shedding and neither he nor I have any control over that.
We often live in a illusory world where we believe that we should be able to control other people. We want to control not only how they behave, but often (and more insidiously) how they think and feel. We want them to LIKE us, or think kindly toward us, or treat us with respect. We get stressed in our attempts to manage other people’s thoughts about us and their behaviour toward us. We think we know what’s going on inside other people, we think we can foretell the future based on what we think THEY think, and we think that there is something we can do about it.
Yes, that’s living in illusion. A whole whack of layers of illusion. Imagine the fabric that is called illusion….wedding dress stuff, layers and layers of tulle-like poufyness. Then imagine what it would be like to have your hold on reality swathed in layers and layers of illusion: not being able to find the ground, or find what is real….yes, that would be stressful! Sometime we believe that the solution to the stress is for the other person to just Just Shape Up. In other words, do what I want you to do, and do it now. Then I won’t have to be all stressed.
If we look at the weather, the absurdity becomes obvious. If only the weather would cooperate, I wouldn’t have to suffer. Not true! Suffering is a result of believing that I shouldn’t be inconvenienced. If the weather were perfect, I’d find something else to suffer (be stressed) about. And I can’t change the weather anyway. There’s got to be a better answer than that!
There is a better answer, one that actually works. The truth is that our thinking is wrong on two counts. First, our stress is not a result of other people’s behaviour (or even the weather). The stress comes from fighting with illusion….fighting imaginary tigers, if you will. And the second wrong-thinking part is the idea that the cure for my upset (stress) is for the other person (or dog, or the weather) to conform to my expectations. After all, I shouldn’t be inconvenienced if I haven’t agreed to it. That is not fair. And that’s a thought a lot of us share.
The cure for stress is to get out of illusion, including the illusions that life contains no inconvenience and that life is fair. Imagine beating your way through the layers and layers of gossamer fabric, wrapped oh so gently around you, encompassing and wrapping you and keeping you in suffering. The hardest part is to really allow yourself to wonder if you are in illusion. This is actually an empirical question. It is testable. You can ask yourself the question…”What do I know?” And sit with that. What do you really KNOW right here and now? What do I know as opposed to what do I think, believe, or feel to be true?
I start with the things that are incontrovertible. I know that I am breathing, for example. I can feel it. I can stop and notice my breathing. Yes, I am certain that I am breathing. Am I alive in my body? Can I feel my feet on the floor? Press them right into the floor and feel them there? Yes. I am breathing and I can I feel my body, beginning with my feet. So now I know that I am alive, a living organism, having an experience. What else can I notice?
Then coming back to the upset at hand….what do I KNOW? What have I seen, heard, observed? Can I separate that from what I think I know about what I have seen, heard and observed? For example, can I notice someone’s behaviour without engaging my beliefs about it? Without the script or storyline? Can I just see what IS without all the layers of how it Should Be or or How I Want It To Be, or How Other People Might Think About It?
It is simple. But it isn’t easy. When I ask myself, what do I want to happen in this situation, I can see if I want to control something (or someone) else. When I ask, what do I really know about this?, then I can better see what my own illusions are contributing
What do I KNOW right here in this moment? Right here and now, can I separate my moment-to-moment experience from my thoughts, beliefs, plans, memories, concepts, and ideas? Can I see what is mine and what is someone else’s? Can I allow other people the same opportunity to be themselves that I want to have in my own life? And when that becomes possible, what do I notice about my own suffering, or my own stress?
Freedom from illusion isn’t freedom from pain. But it sure can minimize the suffering.