“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” – Pema Chödrön
For the most part, it is our instinct to try and control everything in our experience. We cling to what we like and reject what we dislike, but this effort to create enjoyable experiences and resist unenjoyable ones can intensify our unhappiness.
Imagine you were going on a vacation that you have been planning for the last year. You are looking forward to this experience, so you are upset when you find out your flight is delayed due to inclement weather. Now you are stuffed in a crowded airport, aggravated by the precious time you are losing.
The common response to this situation is frustration and resistance. You might pace impatiently, obsessively refresh your phone’s weather updates, or approach the desk several times to demand an update. What does that accomplish…? Does it make you feel any better? Does your flight leave sooner? All it really does is intensify your impatience and irritation.
Mindfulness is defined as the moments between a trigger (i.e. flight delay) and a reaction (i.e. infinite weather update phone refreshes). The longer we can sit with our emotions without reacting, the stronger our mindfulness muscle becomes! This practice teaches us to accept the unchangeable. The unescapable. The difficult. As we sit with our emotions, we widen our capacity to accept whatever arises. We learn to welcome emotions, sound, sensations, thoughts, and everything else in our immediate experience.
Being with and investigating your emotions and thoughts without reacting is the bicep curl of Mindfulness! It is simply being aware of what’s happening right now without wishing it were different.
The key is to enjoy the present without holding on when it changes, which it will! Be with the unpleasant without fearing it will ALWAYS be this way, which it won’t!
The next time you find yourself running late for a meeting or someone cancels plans, see if you can expand your capacity to accept what’s happening. The more we can accept each situation as it presents itself, the more we flow through life with ease!