Are You Arguing with Reality
Recently I went on a three-day silent meditation retreat. No talking, no communicating in any way, no reading, no writing – that is all part of noble silence taught in Buddhism. I loved not talking – no chit chat, small talk over meals; no explaining myself, or talking about myself; no being bombarded with a lot of noise coming at me or the din of 100 voices talking at once – just silence. No cell phones or any technology which was incredibly liberating. Perhaps best of all were some of the guided meditations and teachings that occurred over those three days (yes, the leader of the retreat was allowed to speak). Probably the one talk I remember best was about accepting the moment just as it is without needing to change it. Or more cleverly stated “Are you arguing with reality?”
All of us do it. We all find ourselves asking,” Why is this happening to me?” or “What the hell is going on?!” These are common arguments with reality. As author Byron Katie has stated, “When we argue with reality, we lose the argument 100% of the time.” Think about it - when we argue with reality, we are denying what is, what already exists. Do you argue the fact that the sun comes up every day, and that the earth rotates around the sun? No, because that is a part of reality that we have come to accept as truth. Our day to day realities, especially the unpleasant ones, are often harder to accept. When you hear yourself saying, “This shouldn’t be happening”, or “I wish he/she would be nicer/more patient/ more loving (insert your own word)” – then you are arguing with reality. By arguing with reality, we are trying to deny, push away, refuse to accept the truth of what is in the present moment. The harder we push it away, the more resistance we create to our reality, and the greater, pain, fear, frustration, and suffering we create.
Feeling the feelings of frustration, sadness, anger or whatever, is part of reality. Shouting out a four-letter expletive is cathartic and often feels great. But after that, it’s more beneficial to settle in and be with the reality of the situation, the reality of the moment. Only when we accept what is happening can we move through the experience with greater ease, and without resistance. For example, you lose your job, or your significant other walks out on you. These experiences are difficult and painful. But they are now your reality. Most people will feel angry or hurt which is completely normal. But the sooner you accept the reality of it and stop wishing it weren’t so or denying the reality of your situation, the sooner you will be able to move through it. Once you stop resisting (arguing) and start accepting, then you are in a perfect place to respond from a place of greater peace, calm, and clarity of mind. Resistance prohibits positive movement while acceptance allows for positive movement. It’s a bit like ‘going with the flow’.
There is an ancient Chinese story told by a wise Taoist philosopher: Three men were standing on a bridge overlooking an extremely rough and stormy river. They were watching as another man, below in the river, was being tossed about in the wild, turbulent river waters. It seemed impossible that he could survive. The three men went down to the river’s edge to try to rescue him. When they got there the man was casually stepping out of the river. The three men could not believe that the man from the river was actually alive! The man from the river smiled and explained that he learned from early on to go with the flow. He went down with the water and he came up with the water. He followed the movement of the water and forgot himself. He survived because he didn’t struggle against the water’s superior power.
Reality is our life’s superior power – the ups and the downs, the gifts and the challenges, the joys, and the sorrows. It all makes up the fabric of life. We can’t change our reality but we can learn to engage with it in a different way, accept it for what it is. When we say ‘no’ to our reality, argue with it and deny it, we miss out on a lot of life. If we hang on to only the good things in our lives and push away the unpleasant things, then we rob ourselves of the full experience of life. The reality of unpleasantness is inevitable. How we perceive it, accept it, and respond to it is what will determine our experience with life.
Life circumstances change constantly. We can live fully alive in a world full of changes. When we stop resisting, contracting, and closing ourselves off to our reality, then we can open ourselves up to all of life.
The next time you feel you are entering into another argument with reality, stop a minute. Perhaps you are sitting in a traffic jam. You are already running late for an important appointment when you feel this argument coming on – “How can this be happening at the worst possible time?” You start to deny that this is even possible. The frustration builds, your blood pressure rises, your hands clench tightly around the steering wheel, the furrowed line between your eyebrows grows deeper. Yet it is what is happening. Consider not arguing, but rather sitting with it for a minute or two. Try to see it for what it is and to accept it as it is. Because ultimately, it is your reality at the moment. Once you stop the arguing, you can then decide how you want to respond. When we stop the arguing, accept our reality, we can then join in with the flow of our lives.
Julie Hatch, LAc., NP - Accupuncturist