Accept It or Change it: Eliminate Suffering In Your Life

If the world were full of angels, or robots, or digital avatars things would have the possibility to be perfect. But the world for good or for ill (and often both) are filled with humans. Humans have the potential for other worldly creativity, love, passion, dedication, sacrifice, and possibility. But they have the equal potential for stagnation, hate, boredom, laziness, selfishness, and scarcity.

You can look at your own life and you can see both. Elements, moments, events, etc that show your divinity, your endless possibility . . . AND failures, bad habits, shameful episodes that show your frailty, fallibility, and even your dark evil parts.

Because of this we often encounter other people and people-created institutions that annoy or frustrate us. The DMV, tax bureaus, bosses, retail stores and clerks, and all sorts of other things. We often wish these things worked differently and so we commit a two way sin
We refuse to accept things the way they are
We have no clear commitment to change these things.

This is where suffering comes in. If we can accept things, even if they are bad, we can be at peace with them. Even if this takes time and work, acceptance is a powerful human trait.

And of course, there are some things we don’t want to and probably shouldn’t accept. If we’re unwilling to accept something our only other choice is to commit to changing it. If we don’t, we’re essentially committing to suffering.

Because A – Things don’t usually change on our time table and B – when we refuse to accept things that we aren’t working on we tend to get very whiny and victimy about those things.

Committing to changing something is daunting because a true commitment to change requires we meet the thing we want to change fully where it is and become responsible for it being or occurring differently to us regardless of other people, situations, circumstances, history, or habits.

And this is hard because we like to blame other people for showing up as humans (even as we ask forgiveness for how we show up that way) is one of our favorite things to do.

But all progress is dependent on people doing just that. Seeing what they can’t accept and working to change it despite the obstacles that arise.

So we’re back to our BIG choice again, do you accept it or do you commit to change it?

Because even if it doesn’t change, working to change it can give you meaning, drive, hope and possibility. And even though acceptance might be hard, accepting something that is can liberate you from the suffering attached to it.

So you’ve got to pick. Change it or accept it. And no matter which you choose, you will be literally creating your world from choice rather than from the resignation that suffering so often causes.


Life’s a Be Eye Tee Cee . . . – The 5 Phases of the Suffering Mind

#BPGrumpyKid photo by CoreyAnn working with conflict, sadness, replaying the past, roommates, suffering, observation, mindfulness, mindful fitness, mindfitmove, mindfulness based fitness,So, I’m moving out of my house. It’s all for the best. And I’m actually happy I don’t have to stick around for an awkward month of 30 day noticing. Nothing is worse than having or being a lame duck roommate.

Still I feel defeated, rejected, and sad. It’s funny, because I know I did as best as could be expected. I communicated clearly and calmly 90% of the time. I was diligent in meeting others’ requests. I tried to get along and connect.

Negative GhostRider
But it didn’t work out. And even though part of me knows, that it isn’t my fault. Another part of me feels like King Poo of Poo Mountain

Situations like this are hard because the mind is a blame-placing machine. And in absence of resentment, our minds tend towards depression and subtle senses of self-loathing. It’s hard to see a way forward.

The key is to observe what your mind is doing without judgment. Just this observation alone can reveal what you need. Often the observation itself is a great source of healing.

I engaged in this practice of observation over the past few days. And here are 5 phases I notices my own mind go through during this time.

Phase 1: Total Recall
In this phase, you replay all the key interactions with the person or group of people you’re in conflict with. In each replay, you recast yourself as the diplomat or the sassy bitch.

Though each replay is compelling, nothing changes except your mood and your ability to let the interaction go. You can’t change the past.

Phase 2: Indecision
The mind seeks for a solution to the conflict. It charts how various approaches might play out. You contemplate deep heart felt confessions, strong confrontations, or manipulative subterfuge.

Then you find yourself standing at the top of stairs listening to see if your roommates are in the kitchen. Or maybe staring at a phone trying to decide whether or not to hit send.

No matter what choice you make you will never know whether it’s the right one.
It’s terrifying and you start to realize there might not be a perfect solution after all.

Phase 3: Distraction, Reaction, and Compaction
In this phase, you avoid your feelings by any means possible. This phase is ripe with the seeking of pleasure or sloth.

It involves excessive TV watching, the seeking of sexual satisfaction, engagement in meaningless and repetitive activity, and a dispersed sense of generalized dissatisfaction.

This usually arises because you are unwilling to feel the depth of whatever emotion is arising. On some level, you know you have to deal with what you’re feeling. But on another level, you’re not yet ready.

Phase 4: Sadness, Loneliness, and Dramatic Disenchantment with All Human Existence.
The words that run through your mind are confusing and unconnected. In this stage, you feel a dull ache in your stomach and a hole in the center of your heart. This is a deep and transcendent feeling.

You feel the tension between your deep faith in humanity and the current state of affairs.
You fear you will feel like this forever.

Phase 5: Remission
During this phase, the strength of your feelings and emotions mostly vanish. It may result from absorption in a compelling activity, the presence of someone you feel safe around, or the opening of a new possibility.

The challenge of this state is the mind wants to believe there is nothing left to process and deal with. But often the heart has more to feel even when the mind has moved on.

So, while this phase may be pleasant, it’s important to not try to hold onto it.

The Salvation of Observation
Now here’s the hard part. Other than noticing these states there is nothing else you need to do. As these states shift and change the main practice is to notice and accept.

We watch each state to arise, exist for some time, and then allow it to disappear. Just the act and willingness to observe has amazing healing powers.

Even though I am still caught in this cycle myself, I know my ability to observe my own heart/mind has helped me work through these feelings.

I don’t think it’s going to repair my relationships or be the solution to all my problems. But it will teach me more about myself and what it means to be human.

My hope is that I can use this knowledge to connect, heal, and support others. I believe that even suffering endured with proper attention and intention; can serve my heart and the hearts of others.

How do you deal with setbacks in your life?
Let me know by commenting below.


This Sucks! Zen and the Art of Difficult Emotions

I’m the worst person alive!
Over a year ago, I made a vow to make amends for all my unskillful actions. This process involved doing a moral inventory.

It’s a technique I borrowed from 12-Step work. (In the spirit of full disclosure I’ve never done 12-step work and am not an authority on that process.)

I decided to make a list of every bad thing I’ve ever done. This is super hard. At times, I felt like I was the worst person alive.

Photo of Crying Kid

Tell me how I failed!
The first list I made was long, but I knew there was more. So each night before bed I would sit and say to myself,

“I want to live a life of integrity. I am willing to accept the mistakes I have made. If there is any action I have forgotten and I don’t feel good about, I invite it to come into my awareness.”

After I said this, I would sit in silence for a few minutes. Often something would bubble up to the surface. No matter what it was I greeted it with gratitude and wrote it down.

Make it hurt!
When we start to improve our lives, we open more space. This leads to a sense of freedom and joy. It also allows unfelt emotions to surface.

When these emotions surface, it can feel like we’re moving backwards. In truth it means you are really digging in to real transformation.

The challenge is to face these emotions without trying to fix them. Allow them to arise, feel them, and then be willing to let them go.

5 Steps For Creating Space for Difficult Emotions

1. Set aside time.
You need at least 10-15 minutes, but it’s better to give yourself some wiggle room.

I found that just before bed was the best time for me. It helped me process the day. It also meant I didn’t take these emotions to bed.

2. Find Somewhere to Be Alone
It’s hard to be with difficult emotions around others. They may try to consol or distract you. The point is to just be present with what’s arising. Nature is great, or your bedroom, but if all else fails the bathroom is a good standby.

3. Invite the Emotions to Come In
An invocation can be helpful. State your intention, your willingness to accept what comes, and then invite any hidden emotions to arise.

3. Feel Your Body
If emotions arise, try not to focus on the content. Instead, focus on how the emotions feel in your body. Notice any beliefs that arise especially any absolute statements.

If these emotions become intense try to stay with it, but if your mind starts spinning, focus on your breath or your feet to become grounded.

4. Write it down
Once you have watched the emotion arise, exist, and ebb, write it down. Name the emotions and any beliefs that came with them. This can be a few sentences or much more, it’s up to you.

This gets it out of your head and gives you perspective.

5. Gratitude and Release
Now thank whatever came up for arising. Thank your heart for being willing to feel these hard feelings. Thank yourself for being willing to do this work. Then ask yourself, your heart, and/or a higher power to help you let these feelings go.

Remind yourself that you will do this again soon and that anything else can wait until then.

6. Grounding
Working with difficult emotions can be agitating. Afterwards take ten breaths, do a short yoga routine, or maybe read something inspiring. If you are still reeling try doing something to get in your body: light house work, a more vigorous yoga routine, or a longer meditation.

This practice can be very powerful. It’s not about wallowing, it’s about giving space to the powerful forces inside of us. When we are willing to be with challenging feelings, we gain the courage to face challenges in every aspect of our lives.

Discussion Question: How do you work with difficult emotions?

Disclaimer: For some people this practice is not suggested. If you notice the consistent arising of thoughts involving self harm or suicidal ideation stop using this technique and consult a licensed counselor or therapist before continuing.

If you feel like you need to speak with someone right away call your local crisis line or call A Lifeline Crisis center at 1 800 723 TALK (8255)

Photo Credits


The Illusion of Choice – Be Happy

I had a conversation with a good friend recently about the nature of choice. I realized that many of us have this idea that choice is a good thing, that helps us find happiness and peace.

After all, if I can choose what I want, then I will choose that which will make me happy. We fear being limited in our choices or from having our choices taken away from us. We are jealous of people who have more talents, more money, more friends, and more opportunities, because we think they have more choices than we do.

We believe if we were like them we would be happy, because then we could choose the things that would make us happy. But is this really true? If we had the ability to choose whatever life we wanted, would we choose one that actually made us happy?

Or maybe even more importantly, why do we think the choice to be happy is the same as the choice to choose whatever lifestyle we want?

Lack of choice is a human rights issue for many people, especially people who suffer under poverty or oppression. I’m not suggesting that promoting oppression would help people be happy, but I think it’s important we dispel the illusion that, more choices make us more happy.

I have had a lot of jobs in my life, probably just shy of 100 or so. I was able to have all those jobs, because I pick up skills quickly, I was raised in a stable healthy family, and I received a good education. I had lots of resources and I could have chosen almost any kind of path I wanted, but for years I made a choice to avoid life in subtle ways and to choose dissatisfaction.

So many people do this in all walks of life. Instead of choosing to be happy with whatever they have they choose to be unhappy with it. We live in a country with untold comfort and luxury.

Most of us don’t have to fear violence, starvation, rampant illness, or societal instability. Yet we choose to be dissatisfied with our lives. We are told that we should be smarter, wealthier, have more friends, drink more kinds of coffee, buy more organic food, be more beautiful, be more fit, and more, more, more.

Yet this more rarely makes us happy. We are hiding the fundamental choice. The choice to be happy.

This is the simplest and hardest choice in a way. It is really a choice of faith. It’s a choice of choosing our own flawed, complicated, imperfect, silly, awkward lives. It’s the choice to smile, simply because smiling both manifests happiness and is the manifestation of happiness.

It’s a choice to appreciate what we have even if others have ‘more.’ It’s a choice to let others have ‘more’ and be happy for them. It’s a choice to love ourselves and our lives just as they are. Sounds simple right? Yet it is a very hard thing to do, because there are so many forces inside and out that point out what’s wrong.

Our civilization is built on the ability to solve problems, but that means sometimes we try to find problems when their aren’t any. We have the brains of people who have tamed nature and crossed the globe, but most of our problems now aren’t at that scale.

At least the problems we focus all of this BIG MIND energy on aren’t aren’t to that scale. Instead of using this sledgehammer to pound at our little anxieties, what if instead we chose to work on a more fundamental problem: the problem of being able to choose to be happy.

Take time this week to look at places in your life where you are choosing dissatisfaction. What if you chose to be satisfied instead? Try smiling during the day even if you don’t feel like it. When you are walking around ask, “What look do I have on my face?” It can feel fake and forced at first, but remember smiling does create happiness. They’ve done studies. It’s like totally science and stuff. Try it out for yourself and see what the effects are.

If choice is something you value, try everyday to make the choice that is always available  Make the choice to be happy, at first is small ways and eventually in bigger ways. You will be surprised how this simple intention manifests itself in everything you do.

Thanks for reading and Be Well.