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Loving What Is – The Secret Ingredient For Lasting Happiness
Unfulfilled expectations are one of the biggest sources of unhappiness in human life. Our life is laden with these events – you miss out on the promotion you so badly hoped for, your partner and you have such diverse views that you can rarely agree, your child’s performance or behavior is at complete odds with your expectations, your favorite team loses the final, the weather in your much awaited holiday turns out to be lousy.
They are all potential sources of discontent. Essentially, any mismatch between our expectation and reality leads to disappointment. We feel frustrated, angry and sometimes bitter – a perfect recipe for being unhappy. Unfortunately, we routinely encounter such situations in every day life and even the smallest of mismatches contributes to the accumulating unhappiness.
At a deeper level, this discontentment is linked to our deep identification with our egoistic mind. Our mind routinely conjures up images of the future, elaborating on the potential rewards of our actions, which would take us closer to our dream of greater success and happiness. In the process, we build strong attachment with specific outcomes – the promotion, the child’s strong performance, the favorable weather and so forth.
Additionally, conditioned by our judgmental nature, we see things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and operate from the belief that one outcome is necessarily better than the other. This makes us further cling to the one outcome that we believe is most desirable. Any mismatch is then unacceptable and perceived as a serious setback.
The case for cultivating acceptance
Deeper acceptance means surrendering to what is – not what we want, what it could have been or what it should be, but what is. It is about acknowledging our current reality and being at peace with that. This surrender is not about resigning to our circumstances, but about passionately persisting with our actions without narrowly defined expectations of results.
This means being committed at work, without worrying too much about the potential gains; playing hard but not obsessing about winning; becoming open to accepting our partner as they are and letting go of our instincts to judge them against an ideal mental image; letting go of our wish for perfect children and being open to understanding their individual potential.
Cultivating such acceptance dilutes the ability of our circumstances to disappoint us. As we become open to varying outcomes of our actions, our happiness is no longer hostage to manifestation of only specific outcomes. In the process, we discover the joys of a meaningful journey and do not postpone our happiness until only when we reach a desirable destination.
3 keys to start loving your reality
1. Learning detachment
Cultivating acceptance demands letting go of our incessant desire to control the future. It is about recognizing that our efforts are only one of the variables impacting the outcome; comprehending that all we can hope to control is our efforts; lastly, realizing that what determines our happiness is not the outcomes, but how we react to them.
Our obsession with results also comes from our deep-rooted belief that one outcome is necessarily better than the other. This judgmental approach to evaluating every outcome as positive or negative is what creates fear, greed, anxiety and disappointment. We spend an inordinate proportion of our lifetime craving for things we don’t have and fearing to lose what we do have.
There’s also an implicit assumption that if we try hard enough somehow it is possible for us to create circumstances in our life for only the ‘favorable’ situations to prevail. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this universe, where the only thing permanent is impermanence, ‘favorable’ and ‘unfavorable’ situations arise with the regularity of four seasons and hence there’s no point getting overly attached to pleasant experiences as much as it is futile to being averse to painful ones.
2. Having faith
Our ability to let go of the fixation with the results gets enhanced by having faith in something larger than ourselves. For this, we need to appreciate that the universe is evolving perfectly at all times. The sun rises and sets as it needs to, the winds move, and the water turns into rain as it needs to, the plants are born- some to become trees and some to die early- as they need to.
The working of the entire universe is governed by laws of nature- like the cycle of birth and death, karma and so forth- and our reality is nothing but these laws unfolding in their natural process. It is we humans, who desperately resist it. Seized by our ego, we instinctively start taking all our circumstances- successes and failures- personally, without recognizing that these are mere outcomes of a larger evolution and that they don’t represent any bias for or against us.
Aligning our thinking to these ideas helps us better accept our current reality – we then don’t judge it only from the limited perspective of its personal impact but relate to it as an integral part of life’s evolution. We neither rush to take credit for every success in our life nor blame ourselves for every personal setback. So, when you are anxious about your children, remind yourself to have faith that they would be fine; when the outcome of your efforts are not in line with your expectations, remember what is manifesting is for your highest good.
3. Building Compassion
The third key to loving the prevailing reality is to build compassion – compassion for ourselves as well as for others around us. Owing to our strong attachment with results, coupled with the belief that we are solely responsible for them, we can be too hard on ourselves during setbacks. Being compassionate towards ourselves and mindful of the sincere efforts we put in allows us to feel more reassured, calm and confident.
Similarly, we need to build compassion for others and their circumstances. Rather than judge our colleague, partner or child for their comments or behavior, we ought to build an empathetic understanding of their personal situation. Hidden beneath your partner’s apparent anger might be their deeper love and concern for you; what’s untold by the aggressive behavior of a friend might be their history of personal suffering; and perhaps passing you over for promotion was the fairest thing your boss could do in his situation.
Cultivating acceptance builds equanimity and strengthens our ability to welcome the current reality with greater openness. This automatically creates a deeper sense of calm and happiness in our life. We are then not averse to varying outcomes and can handle all situations, including on the golf course, with grace!
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