Life Is Not Happening To You, But Irrespective Of You. How To Embrace The Process Of Life

Laying The Foundations For Something Greater

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

When you face a problem, it may appear conditions are deliberately happening to you. You may find it difficult to step away from the problem because you’re invested in it. However, if you seek a different viewpoint, you can step back from the drama. Psychologists talk about catastrophising situations that are not as grim as they appear. The key to overcoming problems is to distance yourself emotionally and allow the pieces of the puzzle to come together. This is because life has a complex way of developing and doesn’t always go according to plan. What appears as a problem is laying the foundations for something more to develop.

Therefore, if you focus on the problem alone, you miss out on the process unfolding as it should. Take, for example, building a new home. You may need to first demolish the existing home to make way for the foundations for the new structure. However, if someone were to visit the site and see the home being demolished, there would be no semblance of a new home other than rubble left behind. This setting is a metaphor for what takes place when events don’t unfold according to what you hold in mind. That is because you’re responding to the old structure collapsing, so the new can fill its place. Many believe life is happening to them instead of happening of its own accord and irrespective of them.

Step Back From The Drama

“Life is a process. We are a process. The universe is a process.” — Anne Wilson Shaef

To demonstrate this idea, there’s a wonderful Zen Koan in which a master is walking through the countryside with his pupil. The pupil sees a flock of ducks flying overhead and says to the Zen master: “Look at the ducks flying away from us.” The master instantly corrects the pupil and reminds him the ducks are not flying away from him, but flying in a direction that passes over him. This distinction is important because when untoward events arise, it’s easy to think you’re the victim because events are happening to you. But what if there is no meaning in what is taking place?

To take a comparative view, one of Sigmund Freud’s students once asked about his fondness for smoking cigars. Freud associated human behaviour with sexual meaning. He believed in symbols and, by smoking a cigar, his student attributed this as a phallic symbol with a deeper psychological meaning. Freud responded: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” He stated that sometimes events do not have meaning save the meaning you assign them. You see, after you and I leave this earth, life will go on. It has done so for thousands of years and will do so for thousands more. To accept life means to step back from the drama and appreciate what is unfolding, is for your greater good.

A Tiny Piece In A Puzzle Within A Grander Scheme

“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

To take this idea further, I often advise clients whom I coaching to mentally step back from their problems and observe the patterns throughout their life. Patterns are all around us, whether it be via people’s behaviours or the patterns of life. For example, when something untoward appears, it may be laying the foundations for something else to unfold further down the road. If I’m to judge the experience based on first impressions, I would judge it as an unfortunate event and try to solve the problem. If I am patient and allow the process to unfold, it will do so without judging the condition as unfavourable.

For example, you may be late for an appointment and be held up by traffic. You think it’s terrible because you’ll be late for your appointment. But what if the delay turns out to be a blessing in disguise? What if that delay is re-routing you to a different location to help someone in need? Or to discover something you’ve been looking for? Or prevent you from being involved in a similar car accident? What I’m saying is: you are a tiny piece in a puzzle within a grander scheme, orchestrating itself every moment of the day. You are a pawn in a chess game that has millions of pieces simultaneously moving across the board.

This doesn’t mean you’re not important in the scheme of things. Rather, if you judge a situation based on first impressions, you miss out on seeing what is likely to unfold later on. Psychotherapist David Richo echoes this sentiment in his book, The Five Things We Cannot Change: “We worry because we do not trust ourselves to handle what happens to us. We worry because we do not trust that the way the chips fall will work out for the best. We worry because we have not yet said yes.”

Therefore, as a practice, see if you can suspend judgement and avoid reacting to situations by being more patient. Ask yourself: “What am I not seeing here that could still be unfolding?” Ask the universe to show you more information or to be given the wisdom to see the situation differently. Look for patterns throughout your life and refer to the past when similar conditions turned out in your favour. Nothing is as unwelcoming as it first appears. It is only your thoughts that add meaning and context to a situation. Step back and let life unravel the pieces of the puzzle instead of judging a condition as good or bad. In doing so, you realise life is always serving you, but not in the way you imagine.

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