I don’t know about you, but living in today’s world is one non-stop frustration. If it isn’t traffic in the morning, it is queues to get anything done or irritating neighbours. The only time I am not irritated seems to be on those few and far between holidays…and even then something normally intrudes. Hardly an enlightened outlook and one that definitely does not fit into my stated objective this year of not letting other people and situations determine my responses and or emotional state of being ( a goal that I am not being wildly successful with), but as I have learnt over the years, the first step in changing a habit is becoming aware of how deeply entrenched that habit is. Gulp!
The more I pondered living an un-frustrated life the more I was reminded of a story from a story (The Inspector Shan series by Elliot Pattison, a really good series combining interested murder mystery in Tibet with a healthy dose of spirituality). Entrenched in this series is the life of the old monks in Chinese prison camps and how they still manage to keep who they are even under extreme physical stress. One of the quotes was how they see it as a challenge to their faith and serenity, the ultimate test if you will. That connected nicely to the concepts that Viktor Frankl talks about in his book , Man’s Search for Meaning (for those of you still exploring the book shelves who have not come across Viktor Frankl, he is an Auschwitz survivor) – here again is an example of a man who did not lose himself even though the people and circumstances around him insisted he should.
What did they know that I did not ?
How do you retain control over your emotional state of being regardless of who or what is around you ? Because that, that is the ultimate freedom.
Can you imagine not being controlled by the people and events around you ? Imagine how easy life would be if you could just be you, no matter what ?
One of my tricks when I face these challenges where I don’t want to be something is to imagine a situation that frustrates me (enter really irritating neighbours who live practically on my verandah and love loud music) and then imagining the situation the way I want it to be. Well my first guess on this is to remove the neighbours, but that is not something I control. Nor do I control the volume they play their music at, which brings me to what I can control (because if wishing my neighbours away and their music dead worked, we would not be having this conversation). If I took away the frustration I would be at peace with myself, I would be noticing everything BUT the thing that is frustrating me…what was that ?
I would be noticing everything BUT what was frustrating me! Hmmm! It made sense – when something irritates you the only thing you can focus on is that thing. It is instance. There I will be, quietly listening to TV, not noticing the neighbours at all…and then there is a quiet patch and now I can hear them…. End even when the show gets going again, all I can hear is them. I go from sane (well relatively J )…to insane in microseconds. My thoughts are fully hooked in.
But what if I started to practice focusing on other things ?
What if the problem with anger or frustration (or any of the emotions that require active, consistent fuelling by thoughts and attention) is simply that I am focusing on what I don’t want, rather than what I want ?Putting it into Practice:
  1. Know the rules
    • You can’t create a negative, so what would replace the thing you don’t want ?
    • You can’t wish away things you can’t control, so stop focusing on them, on the people or the outcome and bring it back to yourself, what can you control ?
  2. Practice
  3. Give yourself permission to get it wrong. Change requires practice

What would change if I started to focus on what is working in that situation ? Like the sound of the birds in the garden, the way the light reflects off the clouds, the warmth of the summer sun. To my surprise it worked. But it took effort to distract myself and unhook from those pesky thoughts.

It is indeed humbling to think that I have spent years blaming other people and events for my emotional state of being, only to discover, I had the power all along, but now that I know…. I will practice until I can spend a day at peace, no matter who or what is in my life. Could you ? Why not ?