“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”~ Zhuangzi
Going on vacation can be a big problem. There are those who have a really hard time transitioning from their normal hectic routine to the lesser demands of recreation. The switch from work mode to relaxation mode can actually result in a migraine headache! It seems bizarre to think that the challenge of relaxing, not being woken up by an alarm, of not having to jump in a car and go, of being surrounded by the beauty of an exotic (or just different) environment would result in a headache, but it does happen, I can attest to it.
But why do we do these things to ourselves? Why do we put so many expectations on ourselves? We spend our lives expecting such high levels of performance in any task, on any given day, that it is no wonder we fail. And when we fail we then beat up on ourselves. We should have tried harder, we should have worked more, woulda, coulda, shoulda….
Even on vacation we think that every day should be perfect. Or we try to take part in every offered activity, try to see every possible landmark, to make sure that our vacation is worth the money we paid for it. And it is not just our leisure time that is subject to our competitive expectations. Our children should be amazing in everything they do, as well as beautiful of course. And if, when (for who is perfect, after all) they don’t meet up to these impossible standards, how do we cope?
There are times when I am forced to recognize (in myself first) the tendency to place these unreasonable burdens on ourselves, our families and our friends. And when people are human, and are unable to meet these ideals, how can we recalibrate and adjust? We must recognize that we are victims to our own thinking, an irrational belief about the human race. For we are all fallible, we are all capable of making less than perfect decisions and choices.
Parents of children who are born with defects or who develop disorders have to change their way of thinking or they will be unable to cope with the everyday challenges that make up their day. They have to throw out their imagined hopes and dreams and start to celebrate new achievements, different milestones. They have to find a new way of defining success. For the parents of children with autism, their goals have to change radically. Not only that, but they have to become experts in the disorder, to be able to handle the special trials associated with that distressing disorder.
When reality reins us in from our unrealistic expectations, it is like a spiritual whiplash, a reminder that you are looking in the wrong direction, not paying attention to the beauty that is within and without. When we spend our time looking for an impossibly perfect world, we miss appreciating the pleasure of right here, right now. When we place so many demands on ourselves we run the risk of not seeing what we are actually accomplishing, not acknowledging what we have achieved along the way.
There are so many lessons in life if we are open to them. Often we only value those things that cost us a lot of money, judging worth by a price tag or a brand name. But there is the value in the time we spend in gaining experience; there are pearls that drop into our lap unrecognized while we are searching for an unattainable diamond.
As children we are naturally inclined to compare our lives with others. We see the ones with the good toys, the perfect families, the big house, the nice car, and we know how much better our lives would be if only we could have those things. Yet years later when we remember our childhood, it is the very things we lacked that made our experience special. Once, when my shoes were too worn down to wear I had to wear a pair of my brother’s to school! But that doesn’t beat the story of my brother, who hated his new pair of shoes, and wore his old beat up shoes to the wedding of a family friend. You can imagine my mother’s face when he stepped out of the car at the church (and we were too far from home for him to go back to change!).
What does it take for us to take a second to appreciate what we have, to rejoice in the everyday, simple pleasures of life? Why do we think we would be happier if only, if only we were slimmer, younger, richer, lived in a different place, had different friends, could buy more things? Until we learn to love where we are, who we are, and what we have, to truly go with the flow and enjoy every minute of it, we will never find happiness.
This Friday morning I hope you will take a moment to reflect on where you are, right here, right now. What has it taken for you to get to this moment? Stop and applaud yourself for the obstacles you have climbed over, the insurmountable problems you have surmounted. And recognize how rich your life is. When we learn to show gratitude and appreciation for even the negative experiences of our life, we become instantly wealthy, enjoying the varied pleasures of an abundant life.
Have a wonderful Friday, Family! May you adapt and adjust smoothly to the variety of experiences that life throws at you, may you be resilient and able to go with the flow.