By Suzanne E. Harrill
Do you ever get seduced into the highs and good feeling moments in Life and take it hard when there aren’t enough of them? If you yearn for things to be different, over think about your problems, or spend too much time yearning to repeat the good times of the past, you are not alone. Many people live life this way. There is a way out of being continually disappointed with your life. It is up to you, however, to change your mind and to learn how to let go of and accept your losses as you consciously choose to draw more good into your life.
How do you draw more good into your life? A good place to start is with your thoughts and your words. Things may not be the way you want them to be today, yet as an aware person you pay attention to negative patterns that continually repeat themselves and use them as a motivator to gain clarity about what is desired and what is needing to be left behind. Affirm often what you do want to draw into your life. For example, “I deserve to have a good day even if my partner or teenager is unhappy,” or “I am learning to pay less attention to the pain in my body and focus on building a positive attitude,” or “I will do one nice thing for myself today and let go of expecting others to make me feel good,” or “I spend too much time alone so I will begin giving some time to those in need.” Notice beliefs that no longer serve you that may be unconsciously repeating themselves from childhood, severe religious teachings, or cultural mores. You may need to let go of such ideas as, “I am unworthy of happiness,” and build new ones such as, “I deserve to be happy. I find meaningful things to do with my time because I pay attention to what excites and interests me. I take a small risk each day to move towards creating more fun.”
Learn the importance of accepting, “What Is,” without attachment. You draw more good into your life by learning to accept the current reality without attachment and by releasing unreal expectations. Examples might be that it is a fact you are aging and your feet hurt or you want your partner to change a habit or attitude. You can continually focus on these negative feeling situations which will keep you conscious of the pain or you can learn to detach from the pain by focusing your mind on things you enjoy doing. If you lose yourself in reading, creating a new meal, garden, or piece of art, talking to a friend, walking in nature, or daydream while looking at clouds it helps you detach and find a new path. Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process. If you find you are stuck in part of the process, such as denial, anger, fear, or feeling hopeless and depressed, consider you never completed grieving this issue. You may need to do some inner work to move to the place of acceptance of what cannot be changed. Things such as journaling, talking to another, being in nature, praying and meditating are helpful.
A middle ground between attachment and nonattachment is that of detached-involvement. There is a fine line between putting out there what you want to experience or have in your life and letting go of exactly how and when it manifests or doesn’t. Over-attachment to specific outcomes can create disappointment and suffering because it moves you away from living in a true present. How? Take the example of going to a new place. When you go to a new restaurant, on a new hike, or on a vacation to a place you have never been to before there is no previous experience to compare it with, so you can’t be disappointed. It is easy to go with the flow to see what is offered to explore. Of course you can let other expectations sneak in to spoil it, such as comparing the new place with an earlier time you went on an outing and really had a great time. So great in fact you want to repeat the excitement and happiness you had of hiking in a new place, eating at a new restaurant, or visiting a new museum. Red Flag! Be aware expectations are creeping in and beginning to stop the freshness of the new. Joy comes from being involved in seeing what will come up to taste, explore, or learn in present time. Notice when unrealistic expectations show up in your thinking, as it sets you up for disappointment. When you want to have the freedom of living and enjoying Now, take away the comparisons of former times. Be free to notice what is coming up now, even if it is a routine task such as making your bed or washing dishes. Be free to see what it will be like this time.
If you find you have a lot of attachments and can’t easily get to that neutral place of accepting What Is, consider changing each to a preference. When we are emotionally addicted to specific outcomes it drives us away from our joy and from the freedom to explore a new situation in the Now. When you catch yourself with an emotion-backed demand, which is an emotional addiction such as, “I want my son to be more motivated to study and improve his grades in order to get in a good college,” you begin a process of depending on this outcome for your own comfort and happiness. You lose your power by turning it over to someone else. Consider changing this inner talk to a different conversation in your mind such as, “I prefer my son takes more responsibility for his life and studies to get better grades so he can get in a good college. After all, it is his life and not mine. I will take the time to open communication with him to find out what is really going on with him to see if he needs my help. I will back off of his case and look at my own life and notice where I need to make some positive changes instead of over-focusing on him.” A preference loosens up a thinking pattern and allows the dance of life to move where it does. It gives you space to look for solutions or to make changes. Acceptance of outcomes becomes easier without attachment to certain outcomes. When we are neutral we easily go with the flow and accept What Is.
Another way to accept the current reality that may not change and to draw more good into our lives is to become the Watcher, Observer, or Witness to what is going on within ourselves as we go through our day. Watch yourself be comfortable, uncomfortable, happy, sad, angry, joyful, accepting, not accepting, critical, judgmental, loving, giving, etc. With practice observing your inner interpretation of things moves you away from attachment to outer things to make you happy. This gives you more time to notice what is working and to build upon it.
In summary, if you want your life to feel better you need to build awareness in understanding how negative patterns, habits, and thinking limits your enjoyment of today. It is important to look at what is not working to determine what you do want to experience. You have to let go of beliefs and patterns that need to be upgraded. As new ways of thinking and talking to yourself grow it begins to change how you experience your reality. There will be people, situations, and things to let go of; there will be awareness to limit attachments, unreal expectations, and comparing current experiences with positive past experiences. When you see that you are becoming addicted to specific outcomes, remind yourself to change them to preferences. It is important to notice your inner world by being the observer as well as the participant in your life. Learn to take risks to move you in the direction you say you want. Lose yourself in things that give you pleasure and are fun, such as being creative, spending time with people you have mutual interests with, and enjoying a hobby, pet, or learning something new. In short you have something to do with the results you are experiencing in your life today. You have the power to improve it. Stay aware so you can grow and evolve your life in new directions.