“Pain is what the world does to you; suffering is what you do yourself.” ~Gautama Buddha
I don’t expect things to be a steady state of bliss.
To be honest, I am in agreement with Buddha about the fact that suffering is a part of human nature. Expectations can get in the way our experience. I’m talking about your garden-variety suffering here, not the kind that comes with traumatic events that take you out at the knees or devastating clinical depression.
The now-and-then appearance of melancholy or lethargy is part of an emotional spectrum. For most people, it is just like getting wet in your socks. For me, acknowledging the difficulties allows me to enjoy the amazing and the ordinary.
Still, knowing that the spinning wheel is going to land on grey sometimes does not mean those days aren’t tough. Greyness for me means that my mood, gait and ability to recognise the bounty of my own generosity feels more difficult. A bit like walking in mud that slows you down and holds onto your boots.
Just as I think those emotions are due to sometimes arrive, I also know they will leave—I just want to accelerate that departure. And I’ve found a way that works for me. I made a deal to the Universe.
I speak this pact out loud—“I’ll try if you try.”
My first priority is to focus on my senses and I will try my best to keep my foot out of the water.
Under the header of controlling what I can control, I might actively focus on taking in the smell of fresh coffee—holding the cup in my hands, without expectation, and just experiencing it. It’s the delicious aroma and playful bubbles. The warm comfort of my favorite cup. This moment has become my sanctuary. I don’t want anything in return.
Or I might stand at a window until I can feel the sun’s warmth on my face. The warmth will travel down my neck, my collar bones and down into my abdomen. I’m not looking to be instantly “fixed,” just to prime the pump to receive and interpret information differently by bringing my senses and my nervous system into the equation.
The Yoga Sutras, a text from perhaps as early as 500 BCE that codified yogic theory and practice (yoga with “big Y,” way more than just the poses) reinforce the role of the nervous system in expanded consciousness. The truth is what we believe, and what we feel/believe, can change how you perceive the truth.
It’s like the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant—you build your definitions of what It isBased on your experience. My reasoning is that I can alter the perceptions that I receive.
So that’s my part of the bargain—to widen the sense aperture and find a better experience. For the Universe’s part, I imagine it sending little gifts in return for my efforts—a great parking spot, the wave and smile of a colleague down the hall, a new local tour date for a favorite band.
I don’t actually think the Universe is moving cars or colleagues or tour schedules to accommodate me. It’s simply me noticing. That doesn’t keep me from imagining a sort of an equal and opposite reaction in play that generates goodness in response to my attempts to notice goodness.
I think of this noticing as a reframing of the “Toyota principle.” Long ago when my husband and I got a real car, we got a Toyota. Once we had the Toyota, we suddenly noticed all the other Toyotas on the road and wondered where they’d come from. They hadn’t suddenly flooded the market. It was more about moving the metaphorical antenna to recalibrate the signal—ah, I see things now.
Actively being open to the light and marveling at its forms still doesn’t serve up a twenty-minute fix. It does remind me of all the good standing in wait for me and reinforces that “this too shall pass.” In fact, someone wise once told me “If you want to change something, you’ve got to change something.” These are my somethings.
And so I commit to engaging my senses and being open to the beauty and love in my cup (even if my experience meter feels set to “low”). I believe that if I can do my part, I’ll again come into alignment faster with a Universe that offers no promises, but provides plenty of opportunity and wonder.
Janet Arnold Grych
Janet Arnold Grych is an incredibly lucky mama. She’s a teacher of yoga and a thankful teacher. Janet also works in corporate communications and loves the outdoors and traveling. Her writing has appeared in Elephant Journal and HuffPost as well as on Kripalu Yoga & Wellness. She currently resides in Milwaukee with her family.
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Tiny Buddha published the post How I Lighten My Mood Using a Bargain with the universe