Since moving to Brazil, I have had many opportunities to test and sometimes re-learn my spiritual lessons.
A few years ago, I decided that I did not want to create anymore suffering for myself, and therefore for those around me.
I learned that to accomplish this whenever I found myself in a stressful situation, I had only 3 sane choices:
- accept it,
- change it, or
- leave it.
Anything else (complaining, worrying, and any other form of negativity) only poisoned my own inner space which was then reflected to those around me.
Since then, I have had many opportunities to practice this approach and have made each of these choices more than once:
This is where I always begin. Can I accept this situation and stop resisting the reality of what already is? Much of our suffering is self-created by resisting what already IS. By accepting what is, I mean treating it as if I had chosen it myself. Moving to Brazil was NOT my first or even desired choice. But it was clear that we were supposed to come here, so I chose to accept it as if I had chosen it. On bad days, I remind myself that I know I am SUPPOSED to be here – maybe not why yet, but I embrace this choice as my own. And I often find that when I can truly accept a situation, things have a way of getting better. This alone has made my life immeasurably better.
If I can’t accept the situation, my next choice is to try to change it, without complaining. This means addressing the situation with whomever I need to, respectfully. For example, I have been taking Portuguese lessons for over 6 months and found that recently I was dreading going to my lessons 3 times per week. I realized that somehow they weren’t working for me, so I had a conversation with my instructor to help me determine what wasn’t working for me and we changed the format of my lessons to meet my evolving needs.
Finally, if I can’t accept or change the situation, I leave it, unapologetically. For me, it is better than staying in negativity that I am not able to let go of. By the time I reach this stage, I know I have done my best and that leaving is the best option for me. I take responsibility for my one precious life and my inner space by saying a gracious NO. When I quit my job in California to return home to Michigan, this was where my decision came from. I spoke what was true for me, tried my best to minimize suffering of those involved, and left in peace and complete clarity.
The knowledge of these 3 choices is powerful. Without it, we can feel lost, adrift, or in a downward spiral of negativity when things don’t happen the way we want them to. And I do believe that reducing my own suffering has a major impact on those around me, for when I am suffering I have little capacity to be empathetic, generous, and present with others.
What about you? What are your thoughts or approaches to stressful situations? What coping mechanisms do you employ?