I should get that promotion, she shouldn’t leave me, my kids should behave, I deserve a good night’s sleep (this is a big one for me as a new mom!), I should have a bigger house, he shouldn’t have said that, she shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t eat that piece of chocolate cake… and on and on. A constant, harrowing list of should and shouldn’t.
These stressful thoughts wrap their bony fingers around your neck and they won’t let go.
This is exactly where I’ve found myself time and time again. And then one day I picked up a book off a friend’s shelf and the title was, “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” A white haired lady graced the cover with a big smile and sparkling blue eyes. My first thought was, “Seriously? This is the cheesiest book I’ve ever seen.” My second thought was, “Of course I need love. Wait. Is that true?”
The subtitle on the cover of Byron Katie’s book is just perfect. It reads, “How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead”. I knew instantly this was something I needed to read. And so it was that I opened to the first page and dove in.
Katie describes in the foreword, “I saw clearly, irrevocably, that everything was backward, upside down from what I believed. My thinking had opposed everything as it truly was and reacted with stories of how I thought it should be. “My husband should be more honest.” “My children should respect me more.” Now I saw that instead of seeing what was happening, I was placing conditions on what was happening – as if I had the ability to dictate reality. It was clear to me now that the truth was the extreme opposite. My husband should not be more honest – because he wasn’t. My children shouldn’t respect me more – because they didn’t. Instantly I became a lover of reality. I noticed that this felt more natural, more peaceful.”
Wow. How could that be? How could loving “what is” bring you freedom when “what is” is not what you want it to be?! And then it dawned on me what she was trying to convey: that struggle – that constant pushing for things to go my way and turn out how I want and change into better outcomes – was causing me pain! It wasn’t necessarily the thing itself that was breaking my heart again and again. It was my thoughts about that thing. It was my repetitive, stressful thinking that refused to accept things as they are and instead wanted to push and shove and demand that they be different. THAT was the source of my anxiety, fear, worry and anger. That was the enemy of my peace.
I saw suddenly, clearly, how what happens to me and what I think about what happens to me are two entirely different things. One I have no control over. Ever. The other I do. Always. You can read more about the details of this process in a previous blog post here.
I cannot fully describe the radical shift in my thinking that occurred after I was introduced to “the work”. I wanted things to be as they are because instant peace follows. It was selfish really. I wanted the struggle to cease. My battle with reality was exhausting me. Accepting everything “as is” seemed simpler somehow. It felt real.
If you love your kids but you want them to do this or that and you find yourself saying, “she should” or “he shouldn’t” and then feeling all tied up in knots about it – you know it’s time to do the work. You know it’s time to remember what you already know to be true: It is what it is and it’s exactly as it should be.
Accepting what’s real is a beautiful gift. Embracing “what is” is priceless. It’s a present no one can give you. You have to purchase it and wrap it and give it to yourself with your own two hands. In other words, you have to work for it. You have to earn it. But it’s worth every step in the process because it offers you your freedom in the end.