I discovered a quote the other day by J. Krishnamurti about his “secret” to well-being. “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”
What power is there in that simple statement! How much of our pain, anxiety, heartbreak, and stress are the result of putting meaning in what is happening? I often speak about this concept in relation to money. Imagine you have $100 in your bank account. This is a fact and has no emotional meaning. Your bank statement can not cause you pain. But what if you add in the painful thought that you only have $100 in your account? How does that feel? What does that mean about you? What fears does that meaning bring up about your future? When I do my talks, I would invite people to find gratitude instead by perhaps focusing on that they still have $100 in their account after paying all their bills. I am a big fan of gratitude and how it can make us feel secure and happy. But Krishnamurti takes it one level still.
In his quote, he releases any meaning, judgement or expectation – bad or good. It reminds me of the farmer and the horse story that David Allan tells and explains so well here. Both Allan and Krishnamurti make the case of staying calm and non-judgmental in the face of bad – and good – events. How many of us ride the roller coaster of life? When something good happens, we expect something bad to be around the corner? When we are in the bad, we look with longing to other times or other people who seemingly have it so good. We are victims to the ups and downs of life that we create with our meaning. But what if we stop defining good and bad?
If you are in a difficult situation right now or if you feel like a yo-yo flying back and forth from good to bad, try these exercises.
Build Proof: Look at your own life. What “bad” things actually led to the good you have now? What challenge had to be experienced to allow you to grow into who you were meant to be? What difficulty helped you change things for yourself and others? Martha Beck teaches the Backward Life Story to help us see the power of the bad. Look at one of the wonderful things you have right now in your life. Then look at what happened just before the good thing. And then look at what happened just before that and then before that. Keep going until you hit the bad experience behind it all. Nine times out of ten (if not more) you will be able to trace the joy you have in your life right now, to a painful incident. Without that incident, you would not have the joy. If you have trouble seeing this in your own life, look at the real world examples David Allen shares. Build an understanding of how life’s downs lead to life’s ups. Trust that what you are going through now is only leading you to something better.
Just the Facts: Review your current situation. Identify where you are feeling pain – or joy. Now remove the feeling and just look at the facts. Notice how it is your interpretation of the situation that causes the feeling. Nothing has meaning that we don’t bring to it. Focus on the tangible reality of the situation, not your self-imposed meaning.
Go with the Flow: As you go through your week, be an observer, not a participant in your life. Watch what happens as you would watch a movie. Do not invest meaning. Do not create expectation. Do not judge. Simply move from experience to experience. Get off the good-bad roller coaster.
Focus on Gratitude: Even in the most difficult situation, find the silver lining. When my father went through cancer it was difficult on us all. But even in that I found the gift in having a reason to spend more time with him than I would have had he not been ill. Look at your current pain and find the blessing hiding in the background.