“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”
― Eckhart Tolle
Life can be hectic; sometimes chaos surrounds us in every imaginable direction.
But just because the world around us is in disarray, doesn’t mean the world within us has to be too.
That’s right, I’m saying there’s a way to stay sane in insane times. I’m saying you can get rid of all the insanity inside you created by others, the past, and uncontrollable events…
Just by being a simple witness of your thoughts.
It’s about sitting silently, and witnessing the thoughts passing through you. Just witnessing at first, not interfering and not even judging, because by judging too rapidly you have lost the pure witness. The moment you rush to say, “this is good” or “this is bad,” you have already jumped head first into the chaos.
It takes a little time to create a gap between the witnessing of thoughts and your reaction to them. Once the gap is there, though, you are in for a great surprise – that you are not the thoughts themselves, nor the chaos influencing them. You are the witness, a watcher, who’s capable of changing your mind and rising above the turmoil.
And this process of thought-watching is the very alchemy of true mindfulness. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, the chaotic thoughts start disappearing. You are thinking, but the mind is empty of senseless chatter.
That’s a moment of enlightenment – a moment that you become, perhaps for the first time, an unconditioned, sane, truly free human being.
And you can now begin the process of introducing new ideas that support your inner freedom, and continue to put your soul at ease. Here are nine such ideas…
1. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.
When you feel like you’re sweating and running in circles, understand that we all feel like this sometimes, especially when life’s demands are high and the work is challenging. This doesn’t mean you should give up. Make adjustments as necessary, but keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are not really running in circles; you are running upwards, gradually. The path is just a spiral set of steps… You have already climbed higher than you realize.
2. You are always right where you need to be to take your next step.
There’s absolutely nothing about your present circumstances that prevents you from making progress. All you ever have to decide is what to do next (just the next tiniest step). It really is this simple. You don’t have to have it all figured out to take this step and move forward. Just do the best you can until you know better. Once you know better, do better.
3. Mistakes and failures are the stepping-stones of growth and success.
Even when it doesn’t work out, it’s still necessary practice. And everything takes practice. So embrace the mistakes you haven’t even made yet. To be successful in the long run, you must fail sometimes. Don’t let the fear of making the wrong decision prevent you from making any decision at all. In the end, those who don’t care that failure is inevitable are the ones that reach their dreams. (Read Daring Greatly.)
4. Smiling happens naturally when you complain less.
There is never a need to complain about life. Doing so changes nothing. Instead, spend your moments actually living its beauty. Find the wisdom and strength to embrace the present. If you’re being pulled in every direction by forces beyond your control, take time to realign yourself with what you value most in life. What is important in your life is what you decide is important. Nothing can overwhelm you unless you let it.
5. Not everything needs an explanation.
Sometimes incredible things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, every step of the way, but sometimes it pays to simply have a little faith. Allow the universe to bless you in surprising and joyful ways.
6. You only truly have the things you have let go.
It may feel foreign at first, but all you really need, in life and in love, is to practice letting go. For holding on comes easily; you do not need to learn it. So ease up a bit. It’s OK to loosen your grip. We often hold on too tight for too long, without even thinking about it … without realizing that it’s not what we have when we hold on that counts, it’s what we have when we let go. What remains is what’s truly there. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. Relationships don’t have to be anywhere near perfect to be worth it.
It’s impossible to find someone who will never disappoint you or hurt you. No human being is perfect. Expecting them to be will always lead to painful disappointments. Know this, and go for ones worth the pain and effort. Honestly, without a little pain and effort, true joy and true love wouldn’t feel so good. So take the time and patience to work together to create something real and meaningful.
8. Hating another human being never helps.
It’s important to remember that no human being, when you understand his or her stories and desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing. Even the cruelest people, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a tiny bit, from their sins. So walk away from them with peace, not hate, in your heart.
9. To forgive is to give yourself a chance to grow.
Forgiveness isn’t holding on to someone who hurt you; it’s coming to peace with what happened and moving forward with your life. So forgive those who have hurt you in the past, but even more than this, forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you. The instant you forgive, you’re at least one step ahead in the karma department, and one step ahead of everyone who’s still holding on to old grudges that are holding them back.
It’s no coincidence that the ideas of presence and acceptance permeate through this post. Without them we miss life all together. I was reminded of this earlier today when I was chatting with an 82-year-old course/coaching student about regrets, and she started our chat session by saying (I’m sharing this with permission):
“Why didn’t I learn to accept and appreciate it all, and treat every day like it was the last time? Honestly, my biggest regret is how often I believed in tomorrow.”
May we all take heed to her words. And learn from them.
I’d love to hear from you. What did you think about this post? Which reminder resonated the most with you? Anything to add? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Jakob