It seems weird, when you think about it, but we feel uneasy when things start to get too good. We fear that if things get good, they'll automatically turn bad. So it becomes more comfortable for us to play it safe by not wishing for, or expecting, too much good in life. Life Coach Martha beck says that it's fear of the unknown that causes us to stay stuck in our comfort level. Another reason is social conditioning. Out parents and grandparents reminded us not to expect too much...lest we get disappointed. Now, I realize they were trying to spare us pain but what if, say, they taught us to be open and accepting of whatever happens. That'd be a game-changer for all of us. Their method, though sweet and caring on the surface, is actually self-defeating. It almost always ensures the very thing we fear; loss.
If you watch animals in the wild...or even your own dog...you'll notice that they accept whatever happens to them and find joy in the outcome. Let's say your puppy steals your unattended donut. You scold him, then put him outside. He may sulk, or whine, for a minute or two but shortly, you'll watch him look for ways to amuse himself. He looks to find joy in the outcome. Yet humans seems to prefer mediocrity...even being miserable...rather than allowing joy to simply happen in the moment.
The key to finding, and maintaining, happiness is to learn to accept loss. This line of thinking may seem really odd to you, but it's true and it does work. It can be summed up in one word; nonresistance. The art of nonresistance means learning to distinguish between enjoyment, which leads to happiness, and attachment...which does not. Nonresistance can actually raise your level of acceptable happiness. Simply put, nonresistance means going with the flow. Accepting what is, and finding enjoyment in the moment, yields far better results than becoming attached to something, or someone, which is impermanent and will eventually fade away. All creatures seem to enjoy but none, save for humans, become attached, obsessing about potential loss even while things are going well.
So what about those 3 words that help us all achieve more happiness? Well, they're ones you're familiar with, especially if you've ever trained a puppy.
The first one is Here. This is a simple enough command. It means going to that place where you expect good things to happen. Spend a few moments counting your blessings; being grateful for what you already have and, then, allow yourself to believe that even MORE great things can come your way. The second command is Sit. When you feel yourself drifting back to your old and comfortable happiness set point, "sit still and just watch your inner turmoil of fears, memories of past losses, and catastrophes that you're already imagining" says Ms. Beck. "Let it all float by and then gently bring your attention back to the present moment." Let yourself ride out the emotional storm ; it will pass before you know it. Once your sitting, then the final command comes into play. It is the command of Stay and it is the most difficult one of the three to master. Learning to stay in that place of "openhearted non-attachment" is one of the hardest, yet most powerful, skills you can learn if you want to transform your life. Here a re a few tips to help you learn to stay in that place of hope and enjoyment.
1. Be kind to yourself as you would the puppy you're training. Nobody gets it right the first time. It takes practice...lots of practice for these things to become a habit and feel comfortable to us. As you feel kindness and protection for your puppy, imagine that the universe may feel the same way about you!
2. Just like with a puppy, you have to reinforce good behavior over and over. You've done this for yourself many times during your lifetime; like when you learned to tie your shoe laces, drive a car, or learned to read. You didn't get it right the first time. But you kept trying...telling yourself firmly, but gently, "I can do this." And guess what? You did! Try thinking of enjoying good fortune as just one more skill you can master with practice.
3. And just as your puppy doesn't dwell in the past, neither should you. Think back over your life and remember how things have floated in...and then floated out again. Change is ever-constant. While things, people, and events flow in and out of your life, the flow of life inexhaustible. As something old leaves us, it makes room for something new to arrive.
If you come away with just one lesson from this blog, it should be that good fortune doesn't always mean bad fortune will follow. Using enjoyment and non-attachment together decreases your fear of loss. Luck comes and goes, but the lessons we learn are permanent. They can greatly increase our over-all happiness. Allow yourself to walk in a place of hope and enjoyment. And don't forget those three most important words: Here. Sit. Stay.
I'm taking off tomorrow to visit my family, but will be back here on Wednesday for my weekly lesson from the Dharma Frog. Until then, I wish you all Peace.