Thursday, June 23, 2016

I have been having a day. I don’t know what kind of energy is in the air, but it seems I have been running into resistance. I think it started last night. First, I received a phone call and was chewed out by a realtor who believed I had been unfair to her. Second, I’ve been trying to contact my TV and Internet rep by phone and email, and when he finally emailed me back he basically washed his hands of the problem I am having. And third, I called to order more propane to be delivered and, after having done this four times already, suddenly the person on the end of the line cannot understand my Spanish and my request, so we just end the call.

For a little while today I was sincerely asking myself what in the hell am I doing in Ecuador? It bothered me I was feeling this way because from what I have read about expats living here who “just don’t get it”, I felt uncomfortably close to that camp. It wasn’t too much longer after this thought however, that I “coincidentally” came across an article that basically said, “Hey, life can be hard, and that’s not only ok, it’s expected”.

This really got me thinking. I live in a world that obviously isn’t perfect, at least in the sense of fairness, or freedom from pain or hardships, and how could it be? I interact on a planet with seven billion other humans all expressing their own behaviors and creating actions, reactions, and consequences.

Yet, there has been this message I’ve received my entire life, a message about my “rights” as a citizen of the US, my “rights” as an educated man, my “rights” as someone who tries to do good. The message paints a picture for a person with these rights to have a life that “should” look a certain way: living in a large home, marrying a sexy spouse, raising well behaved kids, having lots of money, lots of energy, and lots of friends, going on great vacations, and oh yeah, even having the adoration of a loyal dog. No worries, no problems, no hardships. Ever.

The problem with this message is that it leaves no room for the difficulties that happen in life, and when they do show up they more often than not are judged as wrong and unfair. In the extreme, they are judged as something being wrong with oneself because we are not experiencing life as it “should” be.

I believe these types of judgments risk increased suffering and atrophy personal growth. So, life can be hard…at least during some periods along the path. How can you and I manage these times better when they happen?

Practice patience.

Patience is the ability to choose learning over judgment in the midst of difficulty. The practice of patience means actively participating in the moment at hand, in the situation, in the hardship present from the place of the observer. Observing, not judging, the “other” around us, and also oneself increases our ability for patience in the midst of difficulties.

Think about what this implies. To observe without judgment, by its very nature, means attachment to outcomes cannot exist. How much pain have you experienced in your life by trying to hold onto something that was already gone? In maintaining your attachment, you prolong the pain of the hardship, and decrease your capacity for patience as you live through it.

What do I get if I observe without judging? I make room for new awareness and understanding of others, myself, and the world. These can help me become wiser, more compassionate, more generous, and more engaged in life. In addition, when I observe I am not avoiding the difficulty.

The event has happened. What do I gain by avoiding it?  The event has become part of my path, just as many other types of events are part of my path. I’m not saying hardships and difficulties are fun and I seek them out in my life. I don’t. I am saying when they do show up, if I turn toward them instead of trying to avoid them, I can learn so many more things that can actually help me.

When the realtor called me I felt in my gut what the call was going to be about. I didn’t want to answer my phone, but I didn’t avoid it. I turned to face the difficulty and chose to be in the place of the observer. I didn’t agree with what she said, but in listening I understood where she was at in saying it. By choosing to observe the conversation it became clear to me the call was about where she was at, not where I was at. By observing myself as well, I gained clarity about who I am and how I operate. When I know who I am and how I am,  I empower myself to make choices that are right.

Be Responsible.

Responsibility is taking ownership of oneself in actions, reactions, and behaviors. There is a difference between responsibility and blame.  It is no better to blame yourself than to blame someone else. I may be to blame for an event, and I may not, but in both scenarios I am responsible for my actions and behavior involving the event.

Being responsible means I choose not to blame others, but I look at myself and the path I am on. What do I want for myself? What can I learn and use from the event? How do I move myself forward in light of the event?

When I called the gas company I initially was frustrated that the person on the other end of the phone could not understand me. When I hung up I was angry that she wasn’t smart enough or competent enough (my judgments) to deliver my propane. I was blaming her for my inability to speak the language in a manner I am understood. I had to take a few breaths and get centered.

What did I want? I wanted propane, and I wanted to be able to call on the phone to have it delivered today. I had called and wasn’t understood. What can I do now? I typed out everything I wanted to say in English, ran it through a translator into Spanish, and then had it in front of me to read. I called again, spoke with the same person, but this time I was understood and the propane was now on its way.

Acknowledge and embrace gratitude.

Gratitude is being thankful for anything that creates goodness, beauty, and love, even indirectly. It is independent of circumstances and events. I think of it as an open acknowledgement of all that is right with life. For me gratitude approaches the spiritual in its application to all of life around me, no matter what form. It is also helps light my path through the dark parts of the journey.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have to experience life in Ecuador. I am grateful for the opportunities to learn a new language and engage with new people. I am grateful to be a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being on this planet.

I’m grateful for you too. Thanks for reading.