If we are able to accept the set of circumstances that have transformed us to who we are, we are enabled to accept how others exist too. A practice of self tolerance unlocks our tolerance of others.
Imagine you wake up less energized than you wished. It could be that you ate late the night before, too much caffeine, maybe too much TV. But then there is a cause for those actions, an argument at work, a scuffle with a friend. Something that caused you to unwind with food and media. Even the confrontation arose from a previous state that might have been built over weeks of physical neglect or bad diet. Each experience we have is the result of so many circumstances that preceded it, that it would be impossible to keep track of each little cause.
Our problems are very complicated, but there is no need to focus on the irreducible questions of how they came into existence. We can only look at them, how they are presently, and be mindful of our efforts to improve.
When we are unaware of our own actions, we neglect the points of view of others as well. We cannot understand and sympathize with the multiplicity of causes for how they arrived to this moment if we cannot also grant ourselves some slack. If we have to idea what is happening in our mind most of the time, how can we assume to judge others? We can always assume others have lives just as problematic as ours.
If we write off, with no uncertainty, that wants are just wants, likes are just likes, and that feelings are frivolous– it is then that the source of our suffering becomes entirely uncertain. Our impatience to go somewhere else is barring us from seeing where we are.
Like how distracted drivers cannot recall details of the road for miles while they are on their phone, if our attention is not properly directed towards our actions then we will also miss quite a bit.
Advanced empathy, an alternative introspective approach:
Oftentimes when we are lonely, it is not because we are alone, but that we are absent from the companionship we desire. In times of company, we are aggravated because we cannot find the silence that was once present before our time of companionship. We see this back and forth in our lives a lot.
Likewise, when we have a full stomach, we wish to feel lighter. When our bodies are empty and light, we crave the fullness and richness of a nice meal or tasty drink.
The problems that we face and the discontent that arises is less a question of what is absent, but what is being refused, prohibited, and disallowed from becoming present. Within each of these moments are opportunities to engage with ourselves, others and our existence as a whole and to enjoy each respective time. This string of moments becomes our life.
Bad days and good days are just 24 hour increments of the Earth’s rotation around the sun:
If the day is filled with happy moments and the unhappy moments seem brief or rare, we call that a good day. If it is the opposite, then we call it a bad day, but this is all perception and likely to change. For each moment of happiness was as much of a choice as each of the unhappy ones. Each good day as much of a choice as the bad days. Moments in time are neither happy nor unhappy, good nor bad– they just are. Like us. We bring good and bad to a neutral world; we bring good or bad to a neutral self.
The most that we can do is be thankful when circumstances turn in our favor and resilient when dealt a bad hand. When we can acknowledge the grace of our good times, we can overcome each ‘bad’ moment as our opportunities to grow. If you view your suffering as permanent, then it will outlast your happiness and you will not grow. Similarly, if you view your happiness as what is permanent, then it will far outlast your suffering.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “All that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable will remain.”
Our happiness is our natural state of being. The only thing getting in the way is our struggle to let the suffering fall away from our unshakeable self.
Curious is the cat:
As humans, our yearning for the “next big thing” is the source of a lot our suffering and also tremendous joy. Our ambition has pushed us to do incredibly humanitarian things, and our biology and psychology always seem to align to push us beyond our limits. These moments are notable. Civil rights activism, calls for awareness, and selfless aid from local communities wherever tragedy arises. We really are built for each other.
Likewise, our ambitions have drawn us historically to unequally proportionate oppression. The same human innateness to build things brings upon atrocities like ethnic cleansing and genocide, tribal wars, and violent outbursts from those that wish to seek power over others.
There is a yang of order, a yin of chaos. A neat balance within our own bodies as well as our politics. So it becomes increasingly necessary to become attuned with where our ambitions are leading us. To shake the unneeded, shakeable things away and leave us with the joy we deserve.
So how do we tame a world so volatile and complex? How do we lead?
The first step that must be taken to see monumental change, is with your foot:
In both our greatest and most sinister ambitions there lies an equally terrific disrespect of the present moment. Each requires a false belief, a deceiving promise that the grass is greener on the other side; That happiness will result from all the hard work; That the next rung on the ladder will be high enough. But see, it is not the next invention, the next promotion, the next award and especially not the next war that can bring upon lasting happiness.
The sense of fulfillment you are reaching for is within you always.
When we find ourselves in a state of discontent, it is not because something is missing, it is because many great things are not being acknowledged. The first step you can take today is into a life that sees things as they are, not how you wish them to be. To step into an abundant life, where your dreams can breathe and each moment can be fully absorbed. Where every perceived bad day can be good and each perceived good day can be better.
Negativity is not a giant force in our lives, but it does grow the fastest. It is much easier to be negative, critical, and pessimistic. Misery will always have company, and blame always has a name. Negativity proliferates throughout our lives and poisons each consecutive day. Positive thought can stop this train completely. Try it. One amazing thing that happened to you, feel it and experience it. The most brief escape can change our entire view.
There is a reason that the present moment is called the present moment and not the IOU-moment. You are rich right now with time and opportunity and you just have to have the courage to pick up the gift life has given you. In a world where everyone is bidding for your attention, time, energy, and love– you can give all of it to yourself first and find yourself wealthier than royalty. Happiness is not easy to cultivate. If it were, we wouldn’t want it.
Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power. -Lao Tzu