Accepting Life As It Is

 In America

Recently I felt a bit down. Initially I attributed my mood to the lingering cold weather, challenges I’d been having with my teenage daughter, and the ongoing absence of a romantic partner in my life. But when I took time to consider my state of mind I realized my discontent stemmed from not accepting life exactly as it was. I wanted it to be more exciting, less difficult and more beautiful (outside). I’d fallen back into the belief that things outside of myself made me happy and that life was unsatisfying without those things.

It’s easy to blame external circumstances for our unhappiness. It’s harder to accept that we are responsible for our feelings. The more dissatisfied and unhappy we think we are about life, the more dissatisfied and unhappy we’ll feel about it. Eckart Tolle writes in his book A New Earth: “To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment…watch out for thoughts that appear to justify or explain this unhappiness but in reality cause it.”
For decades I believed I was powerless over my depression and anxiety—that these states of mind were just inherent to who I was. Then, a close friend pointed out to me how toxic and negative my thoughts were. Over time, I began to notice this as well. Were my thoughts really the cause of my depressed, anxious state? Not some biochemical disorder as I’d always believed? I started to pay close attention to my thoughts. As soon as I noticed any thought about what was going wrong or what was missing, I would immediately replace it by thinking of something that I was grateful for. Big or little, it didn’t matter. Simply being grateful for sunshine, water, or a warm blanket would immediately shift my mood. I discovered that I couldn’t be grateful and depressed at the same time! What a revelation!
And then I expanded this practice and began being grateful for things I didn’t like in my life. This was amazing! I could be grateful for things exactly as they were, and when I did that my whole attitude shifted. As Tolle explains “unexamined thoughts….are stories the ego creates to convince you that you cannot be at peace now….How to be at peace now? By making peace with the present moment.” Even in the most difficult circumstances we can experience relief by not resisting what is, finding something to be grateful for and by releasing the belief that if we only got what we wanted we’d be happy.


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