I was on my way to work one morning and had rationed my time in a way that left no room for aberration – I hopped on the freeway, and lo and behold, I came to a screeching halt – traffic. An accident a few exits ahead had cars creeping along like an ant trail in slow motion. What the heck?! Traffic wasn’t in my morning plan! “It’s not the time of day for traffic,” I mumbled to myself. I noticed my body heat up, my impatience building, tension all along my spine. As I was stressing out, eying the clock as if my gaze controlled it, I wondered, how many times a day are we inconvenienced?
We have expectations that life SHOULD go smoothly – the computer should turn on, the car shouldn’t break down, the plumber should arrive on time. It can be horribly upsetting when things don’t go according to our expectations. But a life without inconvenience is a magical reality. What is certain is that there will be inconveniences – some small, some large, but always some.
In the same way as we expect life to go as planned, we expect ourselves to always make the “right” choices. So often in the counseling room I listen to clients lament, “I should have known,” “I should have done it differently,” “I should have seen it coming,” “I should have done it better.” Whether it’s about their education, their career choices, their relationship patterns, or anything else, people see how they “should have” done it differently. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?
But fighting the unexpected is not the most productive or satisfying way to live. Wishing it were some other way can be very painful. How can we roll with it, and embrace life’s detours and roadblocks? Many spiritual masters of course have turned to the principle of being present. It sounds so simple, so obvious. Yet, the challenge of it is monumental. It was either Deepak Chopra or Eckhart Tolle who wrote about the task of doing the dishes, and how if we’re present to it, the task can be pleasurable. (The day I enjoy doing the dishes is the day that hell freezes over, but I digress…)
There is something so important about living in the moment and being present. It’s true that our minds are what cause suffering especially when our thoughts conflict with what is. Accepting the reality of situations takes practice. What if inconveniences ARE a part of life, rather than an exception? What if we accept our imperfections, rather than fight them? It requires letting go of a sense of control. After all, my watching the clock as I’m in traffic is not going to slow down or speed up time. And while I don’t always have it figured it out, I continue to ask the question.