Saturday, January 19, 2008

illusions and outcomes........


Fifteen years ago, a good friend of mine was travelling through Portugal on her own. She was an experienced traveller and prided herself on her ability to navigate her way in countries she had never been to before. In fact, the confidence she exuded was what attracted me to her on our first day of classes together. In a room full of 30 others, Maxine's energy radiated strength and confidence. It turns out that she felt the same about me..........we ended up as roommates and lifelong friends because of our awareness of one another.

The last thing that Maxine would've predicted was that she would be mugged during her trip. She knew the typical tricks played on tourists and she felt she was always on alert remaining aware of all around her. She thought she had protected herself well......most of her money was in travellers cheques. She carried her valuables in a leather satchel with a wide strap that crossed over one shoulder and under the other. With everything zipped up and sitting on her front, she walked confidently through the marketplace in Lisbon. All of a sudden, someone came out of the middle of nowhere, grabbed her satchel with both hands and RIPPED it off her body. Maxine tried to fight back, yelled loudly to no avail and even tried to chase them down. Within minutes, she was left without any money except a small amount in her pocket, a passport, or identification.

Shocked and shook up, she went directly to the local police station for help. Certainly, she thought, they would help her right way........ she was an honest woman in need. She was an honest Canadian woman in need. That must mean something. However, what happened instead was..... well nothing happened. Maxine found herself in a Catch -22. No I.D, no verification. No I.D. no passport replacement. At least not right away.

She phoned home......called collect.........and got them to wire some money to tide her over until her ID and passport could be replaced. For the first couple of days, she was angry.......angry and unsettled. She had been violated.........her confidence was battered, her sense of infallibility decimated. She was suffering.

Then, something happened. Her thinking changed. Sitting on the beach one day, she suddenly realized how free she was. With no identity, no destination, no way of fighting her situation, she let go of the phony control.......and surrendered to going with the flow. Instead of suffering and feeling sorry for herself, Maxine chose to hang out on the beach and relax. It was probably the most relaxed she has ever felt............

Suffering is a state we can easily succumb to. It kicks in when what we expect to happen clashes with what really happens. Desire clashes with reality. Maxine could easily have remained in that state.........emotionally attached to the event of being mugged, feeling sorry for herself and her situation, overwrought by the violent act. Initially, her desires were all focused on regaining her "identity," because she felt that her happiness and safety depended on it. Then, the thought "theres not a damn thing I can do about this. I might as well make the best of it," occured and she unhooked herself from the suffering. Once she detached from this assumption, and realized that her contentment and happiness was not tied to this event.......OR any event for that matter, she settled in for a "responsibility-free" gift.

It was a lesson she has never forgotten........that her happiness is not a matter of what happens or doesnt happen to her. Rather, it is a choice and a way of looking at the world around her. It comes from within. Favourable feelings are generated internally.........

We all have difficulties to overcome and more often than not the outcome results don't look anything like how we envisioned them or what we expected. Sometimes I find this very frustrating. I have this picture in my head of how something will work out..........and it rarely happens that way. Life seems to be an ongoing process of learning how not to attach yourself to the desired outcome. ...... even if you really really REALLY want it to turn out YOUR way.

"Desire the world, but don't become attached to the outcome of your desire." Deepak Chopra

7 comments:

Shaz said...

I love that quote its so true.
Its ahrd to accept some challenges that are thrown at us especially the red tape type.

Disillusioned said...

I think you must have some esp connection to my brain, because so much of what you have written recently echoes with my own thoughts and stumbling attempts to work things out. I've been reading about emotional regulation, and just last night copied this quote:
"emotion-coaching parents ... view
negative experiences as opportunities for intimacy, learning, and personal growth. They actively communicate understanding and empathy and help their children to confront distress and frightening experiences with a sense of control and optimism." Then I come here and read about happiness being a choice and a way of looking at things. I feel a blog coming on!

Awareness said...

shaz....there are only few things more frustrating than dealing with red tape....I'm thinking that the red tape of the health care system probably takes the cake. We desire to be well....to be in control of our own treatment etc, and yet the system simply adds to our suffering. I'm sure you have had one frustrating moment after another during your year long treatments. What has always shone through is your ability to turn the suffering you could have succumbed to upside down and inside out....AND have shone all of us how to handle adversity and pain with optimism and hope. I have learned a lot from you.

Caroline...interesting that we are thinking and reading similar stuff these days. Love it!
A healthy expression of emotions, to have no fear in describing one's disappointment, sorrow, pain etc is learned in childhood, that's for sure. We do the very best when we validate our children's feelings as they are without judgement. To simply ignore how they are feeling shuts down their chance to learn that they alone choose how they feel.
The best conversations can happen after an incident that produced big feelings........to help them assess their reaction and to see that they are reacting because they choose to....
I had a conversation with my daughter one night after picking her up from seeing a movie. She was dumbstruck that her friend found the movie really sad.....so much so that her friend sobbed throughout. It didn't hit my daughter the same way.......so we talked about how something in the storyline touched her friend in a different way for some reason.....neither reaction to the movie was wrong....just different.

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

This is a really important message and reminder for me right now ... thank you for your words of wisdom, dear Dana.

Also, I've given you an award over at my site because you make my day! xx, JP/deb

Gypsy said...

More and more I have realised that we have control over very little in life. The one thing we can control is our reaction to the things we don't control. It kind of puts us back in the box seat if we choose to see it that way.

Marja said...

To be free from attachment to material things and attachment to people and just enjoy them as they come along, rather than owning them is a very admirable state.
Your friend has really become enlightened. For me it is a slow process.

paris parfait said...

I'm reminded of the Margaret Drabble quote, "When nothing is certain, anything is possible." xo