The Way Things Should Be
It is our ideas about how things ‘should be’ that makes life so difficult. This puts us in a confrontational relationship with reality. It is a battle we can never win. The only way we can ever know true peace is by letting go of our ideas about how things should be – or at the mystic Anthony de Mello once described it, ‘absolute cooperation with the inevitable’.
The thoughts ‘that shouldn’t have happened’ or ‘that should have happened’ can make it impossible for us to find contentment. This would include beliefs such as ‘my parents should have loved me more’, ‘he shouldn’t have done that to me’, or ‘I should have been treated better’. These thoughts lead to unnecessary suffering because reality doesn’t come with a rewind button – what is done is done, and the only helpful question is ‘this has happened, so what do I do now’.
Another source of unnecessary pain is the idea ‘this shouldn’t be happening’. If we argue with what is happening now, it puts us in state of anxiety and contracted thinking, and this makes it hard to deal appropriately with the situation. We can’t change what is already here, and now is never going to change just because we don’t approve of it, so we can save ourselves from useless suffering by working with reality.
Stop Barking at the Waves
It is common to see wild dogs on the beaches here in Thailand, and one of the things they like to do is bark at the waves – I’ve seen dogs do this for hours at a time. Barking obsessively at waves like this can’t be good for a dog’s throat, and it seems a bit pointless if you ask me (it’s not like it is going to make the waves stop)– yet it makes as much sense as our ideas of what should and shouldn’t be happening.
Stop Fighting Reality and Find Peace
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
Life becomes effortless when we go with the flow rather than trying to force reality to fit our image of how it ‘should be’. This act of surrender is only authentic when we fully accept how hopeless our situation is – we can never win a war against reality, and to continue with the fight is just too painful. It is not about accepting reality so we can get what we want but about accepting reality so we want what we get.
All conflicts in the world arise because we try to impose our idea of ‘how things should be’ on reality. It is a hopeless situation because the things we do in response to this rejection of reality (e.g. getting high, believing in fantasies, or arguing with others) ultimately just makes reality seem increasingly unsatisfying. It is unreasonable to expect reality to meet our criteria before we become willing to accept it – when we do this, it means we are choosing to suffer.
Life is what it is. Being alive can be an absolutely wonderful experience, and it is only our ideas about how things ‘should be’ that prevents this.