“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them, that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
— Lao Tzu , Chinese Taoist Philosopher
“Long afternoon?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood.
“I peed my pants an hour ago,” replied the airline employee.
“Sorry,” said her colleague. “I can’t hear you over the growling of my stomach.”
I was glad to see that these two harried female airline employees still had a sense of humour.
A third worked away stone-faced at a separate terminal. Though we had been near the front of the line when it formed, it still took well over an hour to reach the counter. Our flight out of Cuba had been delayed by nearly four hours which meant my wife and I, along with around 80 other passengers, had missed our connecting flights at Vancouver International Airport.
The besieged associates were frantically attempting to arrange alternate flights or hotel accommodation for the long line of tired and frustrated travellers.
While some quietly fumed, others complained loudly. One woman was red-faced and on the verge of tears while another seemed to be hyper-ventilating. Many couples were bickering. One previously amorous young couple (for I had seen them cuddled together at our resort) was now openly sniping at each other.
All told, 22 hours would pass from the time of our wake-up call in Cuba until we finally climbed into bed the next morning. Yes, I was tired and frustrated but also fascinated by the living, grumbling, cursing display of resistance that was now unfolding before us.
In self-esteem terms, resistance usually refers to opposing reality. When we resist reality we lose 100 per cent of the time.
It seems absurd to resist something over which we have no control but most of us do it every day. If the source of all frustration is unfulfilled expectations than our dashed hope of arriving home as expected was being met with extreme resistance.
Standing in line, I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
We become frustrated when events do not unfold in a manner we would expect or prefer. Unfulfilled expectations make us feel out of control and when we do, most of us will respond with fear, which leads to frustration and often to anger. We choose anger because it feels stronger than fear, frustration or hopelessness.
Time for a reality check: there are things that we can change and things that are simply beyond our control. Period. This situation was beyond our control.
Would I have preferred the flight home to have arrived on time? Certainly. Should the airline have been more proactive and better organized upon our arrival? I think so. Would venting my frustration on beleaguered airline employees improve the situation or change the reality of what was? Nope.
Though I did note that for some travellers, yelling or cursing at the airline personnel — though inappropriate and non-productive — did provide temporary relief.
What would happen if you stopped resisting what you don’t like and just allowed it to be? How would it feel to simply accept each situation as it presents itself – without prejudice – free of your need for it to be anything other than what it is?
Relax the mind and approach each situation without judgment – no if’s, and’s or but’s.
I want to be very clear; I am not talking about resignation or denial here. Some things can’t be changed. Others must be changed but first we must acknowledge and accept them in order devise an effective strategy to surmount them.
Notice that I didn’t say to like, I said accept. If you don’t like the situation, acknowledge that dislike and let it be for the moment. Do so and you’ll start to see things more clearly.
Although this may seem obvious, many times in a day do we have thoughts which oppose the reality of what is. So, how do we move from a state of resistance to one of acceptance?
Start with obvious things. Allow the weather to simply be what it is; let go of the notion that Mother Nature must behave in a manner you deem appropriate.
Then there’s the big one: life should be fair. It won’t happen and wanting reality to be different just creates suffering and frustration. If you can start by first acknowledging and then accepting blatantly unchangeable things like weather or justice, you’ll soon find that a perceptual shift begins to occur.
“Change the changeable,” wrote Denis Waitley, American motivational speaker and author. “Accept the unchangeable and [in doing so] remove yourself from the unacceptable.”
I read once that our power lies not in resisting “what is” but in letting “what is” be OK. Acceptance leads to understanding. Despite what we have been conditioned to believe it is never the event itself, however we judge it, that is the cause of our suffering. It is our resistance to it. If we stop resisting what is, the reality of each moment, our suffering ceases. Think about it the next time you miss your connecting flight or Mother Nature rains on your parade.
Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca