By Leo Babauta
How often are we anxious, frustrated, looking forward to something coming up, unhappy with ourselves, unhappy with others?
How often are we not happy with what’s going on in this present moment?
What if we could, instead, be completely in love with this moment?
What if, no matter what happened, we could find the beauty, joy, and gratitude in the moment as it happens?
Let’s make it so.
Rejecting the Experience
There are lots of very good reasons to reject our current experience:
- We have too much to do, and it is overwhelming.
- We have been hurt by someone else.
- We have deep doubts about ourselves, and wish we could be different.
- The situation is filled with uncertainty and fear.
- Someone is being inconsiderate and rude.
- There is injustice in the world.
- We are faced with discrimination, racism, sexism, prejudice, ignorance.
- We are poor, deeply in debt, struggling.
- We are lonely, alone, with no prospects of finding a partner.
- We are in pain.
- We have chronic pain or a terminal illness.
Those are hard things. In fact, if we contemplate some of these horrible situations, it doesn’t take much to see that the smaller problems of our daily lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Given these kinds of difficulties (and more), how can I talk about finding beauty in the present moment?
The problem isn’t the situation. We’ll always face difficult situations in life, some dire and drastic, others small and irritating, but we can’t rid our lives of difficulty, pain and struggle.
The problem is that we reject whatever we face. It’s not good enough, it’s not wanted, it’s not welcome. I don’t want it that way … I want it that way.
That’s the problem: we reject the parts of our experience we don’t like, and wish for ideals instead.
Again … we can’t rid our lives of pain and difficulty. The problem isn’t the external situation, which will always be less than ideal. If we wish for an ideal life, free of our problems, we’ll be wishing until we die.
Given that we’ll never have the ideal situation … can we make the most of what we’ve been given?
Can we stop rejecting the gift of the life we’ve been given, and find beauty in it instead?
Let’s see how.
Finding Beauty in Pain
What good is there in someone angry with us, and us angry with them? How can we find joy in something as sucky as that?
- Pause, and notice how your body is feeling.
- Stay with the feeling in your body with curiosity.
- Welcome the feeling. Invite it to tea.
- See that you are both suffering through pain, difficulty, fear, and tenderness in this moment. See that you’re connected through your pain and tenderness.
- Make a wish for relief of difficulty: “May I find peace. May they also find peace.” In this way, you are finding compassion for yourself, which is beautiful … and compassion for the other human being, which is also beautiful. It shifts you from worried about your self-concern, to wanting to ease the pain of the both of you.
- Find gratitude for what you do have: you are alive, you are connected with other human beings, you can love and appreciate flowers, music, the clouds and the gentle breeze and sunlight.
Every moment, even the most painful, have some kind of beauty, even if it is the simple fact that you are connected to all others who are in pain. You can feel the tenderness of your heart under your fear frustration and pain, and this tenderness is connected to all other human hearts. Everyone, around the world, has this good, tender heart too. This connection to human lives is beautiful.
Every moment is filled with learning, with strength, with love underneath the fear.
Yes, if you are unsafe, get yourself to safety as an act of love for yourself. But you don’t have to have hatred in your heart for the sonofabitch who has hurt you. They are suffering too, and though you don’t have to put up with their abuse, you can wish them peace, for the sake of the peace of your own heart. Take care of yourself, and that includes moving from fear and hatred to love and compassion.
Yes, if you are in constant pain, this is not easy. No one is claiming pain is easy. Who signed up for an easy life? By taking on your pain with patience, forbearance and strength, you are a shining example of love for all others. By taking on this pain, you are developing a capacity to help others with their pain. By taking in pain, you can find a place of joy in the midst of pain, a place of joy you can share with others.
Take the pain and turn it into art, into caring for others, into a heartrending song of life.
The Commitment to Live Fully
When we reject pain, sorrow, anger and loss … we are saying we don’t want all of our lives. We only want the good parts.
What I’m suggesting is that we fully engage with each and every moment. We don’t run, reject or avoid.
We embrace life fully.
We live fully in the groundlessness of our uncertainty and loss, the groundlessness of our anger and sorrow, the groundlessness of our pain. Instead of wishing for a stable, perfect moment … we learn to love the groundlessness and uncertainty of the moment we actually have.
We allow ourselves to fully feel whatever we’re feeling, without rejecting it, seeing this groundless tenderness as the enlightened energy of our lives.
We see this tenderness in our heart, in the midst of groundlessness, as goodness that is in us and everything around us.
We become fully present with an open heart, in full surrender to everything we experience. We reject nothing, and embrace everything.
We see everything as the path to joy and beauty. Everything is filled with goodness, if only we learn to see it as such. If we don’t see it, we only need to look closer.
We see every difficulty as our teacher. Every struggle has a lesson, every loss is a master class in becoming open and letting go of attachment, every pain is a way to touch our tender hearts. Any struggle and any difficult person is a teacher, if we embrace them as such.
Whenever we find ourselves wishing something were different … we use this as a touchstone to coming back to the moment and being fully with it, not rejecting it. Coming back and finding the beauty and goodness. Coming back and seeing this as our teacher.
When we begin to live each moment fully, we start to open up to a vast spacious awareness and beauty. It’s as if we wake up out of a dream to see the incredible mountains that have been in front of us the entire time.
It’s love, this thing in front of us. We just need to step fully into it, and feel the heart-breaking beauty of this love that we call life.