I have found that, for me, almost every situation, no matter how dismal it may seem initially, can be made instantly better by one little question. After a few minutes, OK, sometimes hours and maybe even days, and the “Oh crud! I can’t believe this!” feeling, I take a deep breath and ask myself “How can I make this work for me?”
This one, simple question changes my perspective from being that of a victim who is helplessly at the mercy of seemingly senseless, random circumstances to a conscious person who engages my power and chooses how to take what is in front of me and work with it for my best. This allows me to take hurdles and make them stepping stones. Lemonade out of lemons. Mole hills out of mountains. Enough, already?
Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times says:
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
Sometimes, I am too emotionally close to the situation and too busy feeling like a “piece of shit,” that I forget to do this. I mean, my first inclination is almost always to turn away or to do some slick maneuvering to avoid the situation altogether. Then, one of my wise friends will suggest otherwise or I will remember. Then, I am like “Oh, yeah! Duh!” This question never fails to completely turn the situation around changing my perspective allowing me to return to my center, my peace, and my joy. Because, as I have been told many times and as I have found to be so true, all of these qualities are not found in what happens in our lives; they are found in how we think about what happens. These elusive qualities are totally within your control in your brain. Pretty cool! It is your secret super power.
All emotional torment and suffering, I have learned from my own experience, lies in the difference between expectations and reality. In that space lies the pain and suffering. After sitting in this space for a while and getting mad and sad, accepting what actually is here and now closes the gap. Then, I can start thinking of how this can work for me, whatever “this” may be.
I am told that enlightened individuals never even go through the initial “aack!” phase. They shrug and just say “Oh, now this.” I am working on it, but certainly not there yet.
I also remind myself that just because something causes me pain or is not what I expected or wanted, it does not mean it is not in my highest good or that it can’t turn out OK or for the best even. How do I know what is “best?” Think about that one. Every time I have this “aha moment” it is like a new revelation to me and brings me so much peace. Ahhhh!
It is analogous to a kid at the fair. If the little one had their way they would have the cotton candy, the candy apple, the blue sno cone, the caramel corn, the dog on a stick and maybe even the fried funnel cake too. I wouldn’t want to sit behind them on the roller coaster! Not that we are all immature little kids who will indulge until we are green, but what we like, what we want, and what we think we need is not always what is going to provide the most growth for us or even what is going to get us to our goals. You have to eat a little broccoli and spinach every once in a while.
The next time you are faced with a not so great situation, after the initial panic, take a big breath and ask yourself “OK, how can I make this work for me?”