Living our lives can be a very tough job. Living our lives can also be a very wondrous experience. These are facts for most if not all human beings.
Here is another simple fact that can change your life profoundly: when you practice acknowledging that life is generally both very hard and quite amazing, you can begin to more peacefully greet the harder moments with a sense of appreciation for exactly what those moments are: unpleasant – as in, “Wow, this is just really rough for me/us/you right now!” And you can also begin to more joyfully greet the more positive moments with a sense of appreciation for exactly what those moments are: pleasant – as in, “wow, what a spontaneously generous thing that person just did for me!”
You may wonder, “But what about my life? My life is different.” Of course you have your own unique experiences of pain and suffering. But when it comes down to it, we all experience pain, deep disappointment, intense fear, profound sadness, seemingly endless worry, heavy grief, fiery frustration, and so on. At the heart of it, regardless of the particular situations each of us encounters, we all live very similar emotional lives. This is exactly what makes you human and part of the larger community of humanity. Strangely, there can be profound comfort in knowing that the rest of the world also suffers right alongside you in similar ways.
Denying these simple facts of suffering inevitably causes even more suffering and misery. Not sure about this last statement? Then just try it right now for yourself. Pretend that everyone around you has a pretty amazing life, devoid of the pain and suffering that you alone feel while filled with abundant love, peace, and joy that you don’t have. How do you feel now? I know that I felt pretty miserable just writing that scenario.
The alternative then is to practice pure acknowledgement of the fact that we all suffer, that you experience pain and tough times and that the people down the street do too. And when the painful stuff of life rears its head, you can say to yourself, “This is painful right now. This doesn’t feel very good. How can I take care of myself right now?” Sometimes that’s all we need – self-validation and self-compassion. Of course, it’s not that easy most of the time, and yet this is truly one of the foundations of a life well-lived.
Life can also be joyous and pleasant. You can acknowledge this basic fact (and actually actively look for it in your daily life) to allow for the joy and pleasantness you experience to positively influence your mind and body. If you automatically revert to the natural human tendency to focus and reflect more on the “negative” experiences (even if you are trying to tell a story about something pleasant), then you temporarily lose the opportunity to infuse yourself with the positivity that you so desperately require to cultivate balance, wellness, and ultimately a life of flourishing. The good news is that if the negativity takes over, you can always try again the next moment that you are aware of positivity within or around you.
So, the next time you find yourself on a particularly rough emotional sea, try starting with a pause and a simple acknowledgment that you are on that rough emotional sea for those moments. And you can even further acknowledge that no storm lasts forever.
And the next time you find yourself floating on a pleasant cloud, try starting with a pause and a simple acknowledgment that you are floating on that pleasant cloud for those moments. Soak it in. And you can even further acknowledge that pleasant clouds also do not last forever.
Check out these great resources when you get a chance!
- Rick Hanson (www.rickhanson.net)
- Wherever You Go, There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994)
Until next time, be well and good luck acknowledging,