I realised that I kind of started this post on Friday when I talked about falling and getting back up again; that was one of the lessons I learned in the 2 years of going through the divorce process. All that I learned, and am still learning, helped me so much in that time. Most likely you’ve already come across similar lessons yourself, or already know them. But I’d still like to share these with you. Instead of cramming them all in one post, I’ll spread them over a series of posts.
“Many… cannot change a problem, but you can change how to react to the problem and situation” ~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
For me, the starting point of finding a better way to ‘be’ was to get in touch with my spiritual side. I don’t just mean the religious side of spirituality but more how it relates to or affects the human spirit or soul instead of material or physical things.
At that time, my personal definition of spirituality meant understanding what my life was about; why I’d made the decisions I’d made over the years; why I’d finally chosen to get divorced after years of plodding through life, hoping that things would be different in some undreamed-of future. Why, after years of watching things fall apart, had I decided, at that particular point in my life, to stand up and take a step towards getting through it? I wanted to understand why, if my marriage was to end in a divorce, did I get married in the first place? Why did I marry a man who would become an alcoholic? If we were going to part, why did we have children? I’ve always been a busybody, and I really wanted to know the answers!
Obviously, we don’t get such answers handed to us on a plate; we have to work things out for ourselves. As I worked on getting those answers, I discovered that most ‘life lessons’ are so simple and full of common sense that they’re easy to miss, even dismiss. I guess we expect it to be some great secret that only a select few are privy to.
The lessons that I’ve listed below are the ones that help me the most, the ones I work on practically every day:
FORGIVE. When we believe we cannot or should not forgive someone who’s wronged us, we only end up hurting ourselves, not the other person. To quote the Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Whether you think that person deserves to be forgiven or not doesn’t matter; that’s not the point. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you condone or accept their behaviour; neither does it mean you have to spend time with them if you don’t want to.
When you forgive, you release feelings of anger and resentment. When you release those feelings, you’re free to move forward with your life.
How do you know if you’ve really, truly forgiven someone? The ‘test’ is to sit quietly with yourself, think of that person and honestly hope that he/she is doing well. Notice how you feel – if you feel calm and relaxed, maybe even happy, then you have forgiven them with love in your heart. If you feel annoyed, like there’s a knot in your tummy and/or your body feels tense, forgiveness hasn’t happened yet.
But there is one person who absolutely does deserve to be forgiven, probably before you forgive anyone else – that person is you. Forgive yourself for everything you think you’ve done or haven’t done.
ACCEPT things as they are, and that includes people. Don’t always try to force change, in situations or people. No one has the power to change or control anyone – either accept the person the way he is or leave. As for situations, sometimes it’s ok to relinquish control – you don’t have to control, know or fix everything.
GRATITUDE. “An attitude of gratitude”, in my opinion, goes a long way in fostering the ‘feel-good’ feeling. It’s about developing the habit of being thankful for the blessings in your life, from the very big, obvious things right down to the teeny-tiny things and everything in between.
I give thanks when I turn in for the night, but I also express gratitude at any point during the day when something happens that I’m either not expecting or I’m hoping will happen. You can do it whenever it feels right for you; like many practices, there’s no right or wrong way, just your way.
Don’t forget to give thanks for the things we take for granted, like running water, electricity, getting groceries, even soft toilet paper… The sudden beauty we see, a stranger’s lovely smile, glorious bursts of colourful flowers, a buzzard hovering in a perfect blue, cloudless sky…
RELEASE negativity. Like the song says, let it go. (Apologies if you’re now humming it) Whatever is fuelling the negativity – anger, feeling like a victim, resentment, anything that feels toxic, and that includes relationships – as hard as it is, you have to let it go. Holding onto it is like carrying a backpack filled with stones – it’s going to drag you down, literally and figuratively. Again, it only hurts you.
LOVE yourself first. Be kind to yourself. Put yourself first, even if that’s not the popular decision, even if people say you’re being selfish. Give yourself a break, don’t be so harsh on yourself; nobody’s perfect.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve love and affection” ~ Buddha