I have found that, for me, almost every situation, no matter how dismal it may seem initially, can be made instantly better by one little question. After a few minutes, OK, sometimes hours and maybe even days, and the “Oh crud! I can’t believe this!” feeling, I take a deep breath and ask myself “How can I make this work for me?”
This one, simple question changes my perspective from being that of a victim who is helplessly at the mercy of seemingly senseless, random circumstances to a conscious person who engages my power and chooses how to take what is in front of me and work with it for my best. This allows me to take hurdles and make them stepping stones. Lemonade out of lemons. Molehills out of mountains. Enough, already?
Pema Chodron, in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times says: “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
Sometimes, I’m too emotionally close to the situation and too busy feeling like a “piece of shit,” that I forget to do this. I mean, my first inclination is almost always to turn away or to do some slick maneuvering to avoid the situation altogether. Then, one of my wise friends will suggest otherwise or I will remember. Then, I’m like “Oh, yeah!”
This question never fails to completely turn the situation around changing my perspective allowing me to return to my center, my peace, and my joy. Because, as I have been told many times and as I have found to be so true, all of these qualities are not found in what happens in our lives; they are found in how we think about what happens. These qualities are totally within your control in your brain. Pretty cool! It’s your secret super power.
Most emotional torment and suffering, I’ve learned from my own experience, lies in the gap between expectations and reality. In that space lies the pain and suffering. After sitting in this space for a while and getting mad and sad, accepting what actually is here and now closes the gap. Then, I can start thinking of how this can work for me, whatever “this” may be.
I understand that enlightened individuals never even go through the initial panic. They shrug nonchalantly and think, “Oh, now this.” I’m working on it, but I’m certainly not there yet.
I also remind myself that just because something causes me pain or isn’t what I expected or wanted, does not mean it’s not in my highest good or that it can’t turn out OK or for the best even. How do I even know what is “best?” Think about that one. Every time I have this “aha moment” it’s like a new revelation to me and brings me so much peace and calm.
I liken it to a kid at the fair. If the youngster had their way they would have the cotton candy, the candy apple, the blue sno cone, the caramel corn, the corn dog on a stick and maybe even the fried funnel cake too. (I wouldn’t want to sit behind them on the roller coaster! ) Not that we are all immature little kids who will indulge until we are green, but what we like, what we want, and what we think we need is not always going to provide the most growth for us or even get us to our goals. They have to eat a little broccoli and spinach every once in a while.
The next time you are faced with a not so great situation, after the initial panic, take a big breath and ask yourself “How do I make this work for me?”
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