Most of what upsets us in life is our own mind arguing with reality.
The idea that something should be different than it is brings nothing but pain and suffering.
Yet we all consistently argue with reality.
“I shouldn’t have done that.” when you did do it.
“They shouldn’t have done that.” when they did.
“My dad shouldn’t smoke.” when he does.
“Parents shouldn’t let their kids watch so much television.” when they do.
“I should have been the one to get that promotion.” when you weren’t.
“I wish I had more money.” when you don’t.
“I wish I had a different job.” when you don’t.
“He should be more understanding.” When he’s not.
If these examples don’t sound familiar to you, pay attention for a day and I promise: You will find you’re own mind arguing with reality. Take special notice any moment when you are feeling grumpy, stressed, hurt, etc. and that’s where you’ll see it for sure.
Let’s look at a more concrete example.
One time in the grocery store my daughter threw herself onto the ground kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to sit in the cart, or walk, but wanted only to be carried. I had judged these type of parents and kids before and been certain my child would never behave like this. Now, having my own parenting methods and ego threatened, I became desperate for her to stop. Clearly she was on the ground kicking and screaming, that is the reality. Can you see how this is not a problem until the moment I want something to be different than reality?
Reality: My daughter is having a temper tantrum.
Argument with reality: I don’t want her to be having a temper tantrum.
The problem: Wanting reality to be different than it is.
The problem is not the temper tantrum. Or even what the temper tantrum may seem to prove, such as: I am failing as a parent or something is wrong with my child. It is 100% the fact that I am arguing with reality.
We can’t win an argument with realty. Ever. So it is futile and consistently frustrating to try.
Imagine if your child (or the screaming kid in the seat behind you on an airplane) was throwing a temper tantrum and it didn’t even occur to you that they shouldn’t be. Imagine yourself trusting that if it’s happening it should be happening and if it happened it should have happened, even if you can’t understand why. In this case you are no longer powerless to the unfolding of an unfair, stressful circumstance. Rather, you are free to respond to what is happening with total acceptance and sanity.
To be clear, not arguing with reality doesn’t mean we sit passively and do nothing about the situation. It means that whatever action (or inaction) we take is done from a place of alignment with life and what is happening rather than from a place of resistance to life and what is happening.
You may notice, these thoughts that argue with reality don’t go away, even once we realize this. We all have what I call “a crazy monkey that lives in our head”. It is the voice of un-reason and it isn’t going anywhere. That’s perfectly ok. We can have thoughts that argue with reality and actually it isn’t actually the real problem…until we believe the thoughts are true.
The lies we fall for every single day are those thoughts that argue with reality.
Embracing reality as the truth will set you free. Embrace it and then make your next move.
Embracing reality or arguing with reality, I still try to get my daughter to stop kicking and screaming on the floor of the grocery store (except the time when I just walked outside and left her there). The difference is in how I feel inside when I make my move, and what attitude my actions are inspired by.
Embracing realty: I feel calm, clear-headed, and I behave in a way I’m proud of.
Arguing with reality: I feel like a failure, desperate, humiliated and I realize where my daughter has learned some of the behaviors I wish she didn’t know about.
If it’s happening, it should be happening.
And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments. What about war, racism, horrible crimes and injustices? Are you saying those things should have happened? Yes. But I do not pretend to understand why. I only know that if I trust they should have, I feel a deep sense of inner peace that becomes the foundation of my efforts to prevent these things in the future. And if I believe that they shouldn’t have I feel a deep sadness. Which is the thing I’m looking for? The thing most of us are looking for?
I once had a student in one of my yoga teacher training programs that had spent weeks fighting this idea, convinced that feeling anger about what has happened, or is happening, is an important catalyst for positive change. I do not agree. If you are angry and want to fight against something, you contribute to the anger in the world. One day she came to me and looked as if a giant weight had been lifted off her shoulders and she said, “I woke up this morning and I got it. The Dalia Lama isn’t angry.”
Try this on your own:
Notice all the thoughts you have that argue with reality over the course of a day or a week. In your mind, go back into one of the more challenging moments and locate the thoughts that argue with reality. Now imagine what your experience would be like without any of these thoughts.
Imagine what it would be like if you trusted that if it happened, or if it was happening, then it should have or it should be happening. Even if you cannot fathom a reason why.
Remember that this isn’t meant to keep you passive. You can respond, take a stand, do something to make a change…all from a place of alignment with life. Then continue to trust in each moment that what happens should happen.