It is important for us to let go of the things that we have no control over. Most of us have a tendency to fret over things and events that in the moment we can’t do anything about. Whenever I find myself in these situations, I try to recite part of the Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
This affirmation can be useful in aiding us to see what decision needs to made for our particular circumstance.
The First Part: …The serenity to accept the things I cannot change
There are some things that we have no dominion over changing. These may be the areas where we need to mind our own business - taking care of our side of the street. An example of this is having a spat with a friend or lover. We may have tried to convey our viewpoint and feelings regarding a specific behavior. The other person may not be able to see, nor understand our perspective. At this point we have two choices: try to beat the case into their head, or accept their position. Many of us will try, unsuccessfully, taking the first stance even when we know this will only induce more anguish on both sides. The second option is clearly more effective, but involves work getting to this place. Though many of us would rather discuss the issue fully in the moment, sometimes it is best for us to take a step back. Evaluating the situation may impart added insight; helping us to make a more cognizant decision.
A considerable amount of us have the ability to act out of hurt when a conversation with a loved one is not going our way. As I have learned from experience, and conversations with friends, we may be able to make up for what we have said, but we will never be able to reverse the words.
Second: The courage to change the things I can
This can be extremely difficult; especially if we feel that we are stuck and unsure of what particular action to take. In these moments of uncertainty I like to go into silence. When we agonize obsessively over a situation our mind takes over and our spiritual guidance has little room of getting through. The silence offers this connection. It frees us in the moment from the varying thoughts trying to take over, and allows for the answer to come through. Before sitting in silence, I will ask the question I need guidance with. Sometimes the answer will not arrive immediately; the exercise may need to be completed several times. Upon concluding this step, the answer may appear from seemingly out of nowhere. Another way is to ask the question right before going to sleep. I believe in the power of messages that come in dream form. To do this the mind needs to be clear. Ask the question and notice if the answer emerges within the dream. When the elucidation has arrived in this form I will usually wake up vividly remembering the dream and the answer that resulted from it.
In order for us to interpret the messages we receive, we have to understand our own personal spiritual connection. This does not feel the same for everyone. Sometimes it may be our mind speaking to us instead of our visceral connection. We have to understand the differences between these voices and feelings. We are not what we think. Most of our thoughts do not belong to us, unless we make the choice to take them in and believe them. Illustrations of this can be witnessed by the emphasis the American society places on appearances. For many years, according to Hollywood, the standard for beauty was, and in many respects still is, thin, fair-skin, large breasts, and preferably long blond hair. Look at Barbie. The problem was/is that most women do not fit this description. Furthermore, if our beauty was not reinforced at home, or if we suffer from low self-esteem, we may develop issues with our looks. When the thought “I am not good enough because…” arises, we have the prerogative of letting it go, understanding where it stems from, and that it has nothing to do with us, or we can perpetuate it, causing us to create self-destructive habits.
Third: …And wisdom to know the difference
Simple words, yet possibly the hardest rule. How to know which is which? One of the best ways is trying to look at the situation objectively. To remove ourselves from the picture as much as possible. From this fresh viewpoint we may be able to see things more clearly. Alternatively, we can ask ourselves the following questions: “Does this situation have something to do with me or another person?” If the answer is us, then we may have control over the situation. If the answer comes back to another person, the next set of questions could be: “Will what I say or do change the situation”, “Can it make it better or worse”, and finally, “do I truly need to say anything at all?
I have learned that life is an accumulation of trial and error. It is almost impossible to get something right if we have not first fucked it up, or watched another that has. At the end of the day it is important for us to know that we gave our best. That we loved as best we could, offered kindness, support… that we have lived. And if by chance we did not, well, we can try again tomorrow.