“Don’t try and be happy all the time—that’s stressful. Instead, practice being awake to whatever is: then we get something better than happiness. We get unconditional confidence and relaxation, and yes, a sort of fundamental joy, “ Waylon Lewis. We have all heard the value of being present. Eckhart Tolle speaks of the power of now. Beck talks about the feeling of safety living from minute to minute. The truth is there is a fundamental release we get when we stay present and understand that, in any given moment, the thoughts we have are simply that: thoughts. Nearly 90% of what we think about, chew over, repeat incessantly never happens. I’d like to say that thoughts can’t hurt us but I know all too well the personal hell that is created with a mind left to its own devices.
Like when we aren’t paying attention behind the wheel (which you should never do btw!), we overcorrect when we see we’ve gotten off course. When our minds run rampant, we tend to pull as far in the other direction as possible, either shying away from the thoughts or forcing an unnaturally positive thought in its place. Neither of those does any good. We have to learn to sit. To recognize it is only a thought. Not to say that I don’t believe in things like premonitions or clairvoyance (anything can happen and I’ve had my own experiences—that’s for another time), but NOT every thought is an indicator of what will happen and it is certainly no indicator of what IS happening. If you give yourself the presence to pause, your emotion will tell you about what IS. And more often than not you will see you are fine.
To the opening quote, we also can’t spend our time in a forced state of positivity or happiness. It doesn’t exist and it is EXHAUSTING trying to keep up or create an emotion that isn’t there. You will find it’s much easier to stay present than it is to overcorrect or experience something that isn’t real. The mind is a powerful thing and it’s challenging to discipline it. I struggle with that every day. My mind goes in a million directions because I manage four separate departments that have nothing to do with each other so I’m switching gears from moment to moment. I often feel like I have no control because my internal responses are largely based on external events—I’m in healthcare so we need to respond. But if I didn’t respond to what was happening, if I was in my own world ignoring what was going on, really bad things would happen.
So there is a middle ground. Staying focused. Being aware of what is and taking it at face value. We attach a lot of emotion to events and we take things personally. Logically we know this isn’t the case but our mind tells us something different. We think we can control events that we have no say in and that causes stress as well. As Lewis says, we find peace in surrender. We find true confidence and joy in taking what is. Our mind tells us we can do more, but the truth is, all we ever have is now. Play the cards you’re dealt.
I’m a recovering control freak. I know I will never let go of all my tendencies but I am working on one thing at a time. I’m also focusing on the things I CAN control—and that shift has made a tremendous difference. That perspective is also about what IS rather than what we want it to be or what we think it will be—or should be. Addressing inner demons, taking a pause before responding, establishing firm boundaries, and sticking to goals are all things we can control. Those are all decisions we can make. You will find that the more you live in your own world versus the world of interpretation (or obligation or fear or anywhere but here) that you are much happier than believing you are happy pursuing something not meant for you or controlling something that you have no power over. It’s in letting go of the search for happiness that we are able to find what truly makes us happy.