For many of us there can be a sense of clinging to an idea of a life other than the one which we are living. We may be living our lives, but we live them without a contentment and acceptance of that which we have been granted or have created. We may idealize a relationship other than the one we may or may not have right now, think that a promotion or another work opportunity will change our lives for the better, hope for different living arrangements/accommodations, dream of being in better financial condition, fantasize about certain problems going away, etc.. In doing these things, we are selling ourselves on the idea that we have good reason to not be content. We believe that once these issues in our lives are rectified that happiness will at long last magically fall into our laps.
I’ve come to recognize in my life that happiness is inversely proportional to the distance between our acceptance of the way things are and the way that we wish them to be. The greater that distance, the more unhappy we become. It is fine, and I believe helpful, to envision and seek improvement in our lives, but our folly is that in the process of wanting more, we fail to accept that which we have right now. It is foolhardy to fight against reality. Everything simply is as it is, and the sooner we can learn to accept things for the way they are, the sooner that happiness can appear. Again, I don’t mean to say that we can’t want and work towards more, but it’s crucial to not reject that which we have now. Rejection, however overt or subtle, is a stance of conflict, and that conflict fills the space that could otherwise be occupied by ease and joy.
Lately in my own life, I have been experiencing the sense that I am settling. In the past, the word “settling” has had more of a sense of compromise (as in “to settle for”), but lately, settling feels more like a relaxation into acceptance of that which is (a “settling in”). I feel like I am settling into my life, my life simply as it is. This shows up in accepting that the area where I live is my place, the people populating my life both near and far are my people, my relationship status is simply as it is, my age is the age that it is, the challenging situations I may find myself in are mine, and the capacities and incapacities that I have are all part of me. “Settling” now means relaxing into this life that I have, into the reality that appears to present itself, and accepting that which is rather than attending to that which yet isn’t.
Accepting oneself simply and completely as we are is perhaps the most difficult of spiritual steps we can take in our lives. There are many outward projections to look under and myriad difficult self-revelations to be attended to. I’ve come to realize in my life that the only real way to stop being critical of others is to first learn to not be critical of ourselves. That lack of self-criticism has its foundation in love, acceptance and compassion. By developing and integrating these three qualities, we can naturally stop being critical of others.
Settling into our lives as they are gives us the encouragement to make the most of what we have. When our focus is on a fantasied change in the future rather than on what is here in this moment, we miss it, we miss the bounty that exists right here waiting for us.