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46. Accepting Reality

You may have heard of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. They are: 1. Life means suffering 2. The cause of suffering is attachment 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable 4. The path to the cessation of suffering is The Eightfold Path, and encompasses wisdom and understanding, acting ethically and developing your mind. In short, suffering is in good supply in this life, and most of it is created by wanting things to be a certain way. For example, we look in the mirror and see a blemish on our face, or that our body is the wrong shape, or we notice some wrinkles or grey hair. We get down or anxious or start worrying about that holiday or date that's coming up that we want to look good for. Implicit in that process is the assumption that you should not have any blemishes on your face, your body should be a certain shape and that you should not get old. Looking in the mirror is therefore always going to be painful. If you could drop your attachment to looking a certain way, your suffering would cease. This week's tip is about how we fight with reality and how a process developed by Byron Katie can help. "When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time." Byron Katie A couple and their two children are going on holiday tomorrow. Niamh is at home with the children while Tom is out at work. Tom is expecting that Niamh will tidy the house and sort out the packing while he's at work, so that all he has to do when he gets home is his own packing. That way they can have a relaxed evening and get to bed early. He's feeling upbeat at that thought. When he gets home a rather different reality faces him. Niamh is in the kitchen with the two children, giving them their tea. The house is a mess and the packing has not been started. Tom is so disappointed and frustrated. His whole evening has now been ruined. His thoughts run something like this: 'I've been at work all day while she's been home. She should have done the packing. It's not fair.' 'She just doesn't think about me.' 'She's selfish.' 'Why do I always have to do everything?' 'She so disorganised.' His thoughts feed his frustration and upset. He stomps around the house until Niamh asks him what's wrong. 'Well, I just thought you would have done some packing by now. Now I've got to do it and I'm tired from work.....' And so on. As you can imagine, Niamh says, 'I'm so sorry darling, you're quite right, I should have done it. I tell you what, you put your feet up and I'll finish up here, tidy the house and do all the packing.' Well, of course she doesn't say that really. She is immediately defensive, tells him about the hellish day she's had, and gets very angry. They have a row. More suffering. Byron Katie, in her book 'Loving What Is', gives four questions that can help in situations like this: 1. Is it true? 2. Can you absolutely know that it's true? 3. How do you react when you think that thought? 4. Who would you be without that thought? and Turn it around The thing to do is find a thought that has particular power to make you feel angry, upset etc. For Tom, the thought 'she just doesn't think about me' makes him feel very upset and angry. 1. His response to 'is it true?' is that yes, she's constantly doing things that are inconsiderate and thoughtless. 2. But when asked if he can be absolutely sure that it's true he admits that he isn't party to what goes on in her mind. However much her behaviour suggests it, he can't be sure that she doesn't think about him. Also, he realises that it's a bit of a general statement and that of course she thinks about him sometimes. 3. When he believes the thought that she doesn't think about him he feels not only upset and angry, but starts having visions of living the rest of his life with someone who doesn't care about him. He then starts wondering if the marriage is going to work and feels anxious about the future. The more he thinks the more wretched he feels, and the more wretched he feels, the more he thinks. Suddenly a few empty suitcases have turned into a lifetime of misery. 4. When he thinks about who he'd be without the thought, he feels remarkably calm. He realises that he's going on holiday tomorrow with his family that he loves, and it's just going to take a bit of effort tonight to get things sorted and then he'll be able to relax. He also realises that expecting Niamh to have done all the preparation was ridiculous. She always does things at the last minute and he doubts that will ever change. He even manages a rueful smile at the sheer absurdity of his expectations. The last piece of Byron Katie's 'Work' is to take the thought and turn it around into a new, but opposing, thought. You then ask the question, is this new thought as true, or more true than the original one? So some turnarounds of Tom's thought might be: She does think about me I don't think about her I don't think about me He realises that there is some truth in all these statements. Perhaps it's his job to think about himself, not hers? Again he feels calmer. Try this: 1. Think of someone in your life who is causing you grief. 2. Have a 'blurt' onto paper as to what exactly they have done wrong and your judgements about them. Feel free to be as lurid as you like. 3. Select a judgement that really gets you going, and ask yourself the four questions. 4. Find at least three turnaround statements for your thought, and for each one find three pieces of evidence that it is true. 5. Notice if your feelings change as you do this exercise. "When they attack you and you notice that you love them with all your heart, your Work is done." Byron Katie Enjoy accepting reality this week....