Most of us take an adversarial stance toward the world around us. This might be subtle (shouldn’t life be fairer?), more overt (I hate that it’s so windy in Hawaii), or even outright hostile (what kind of lamebrain God lets children starve?). We’re not in the habit of noticing how much we do this, nor the extent to which this attitude affects our well-being.
When we’re on a different wavelength from the big picture, we tend to think that our problems are imposed on us from outside. Inadvertently, we sign up for a great deal of gratuitous suffering since this perception keeps us from focusing on the real work within ourselves. The universe doesn’t have an interest in rearranging itself to suit us. We need to create alignment by adapting to it.
Life is hard enough. Why add optional layers of stress and misery by setting ourselves to the impossible task of trying to transform all our circumstances to suit our preferences? A cooperative relationship between our inner selves (our attitudes, feelings, and thoughts) and the way things work on a grander scale makes life much easier. We’re able to get out of our own way and let things happen instead of trying to arm wrestle life into submission. If we fight reality, we lose. It’s a lot bigger than we are.
It’s all well and good to say that we want to be more congruent - more accepting of the way things are - but what do we actually need to do to make progress in this realm? I believe that there are several simple (but challenging) steps we need to take.
First, we must learn more about how things work in the world around us. How can we create a harmonious match-up with something we don’t understand? So let’s look at how to go about that. Should we read more books? Review our personal history? Ask our elders? I think the information we seek is embedded in our present day experience. We just need to develop more mindfulness - pay closer attention - to find it. When we’re not in the moment, we know our own minds instead of the world. When we’re present, life tells us about itself. It’s a skill that can be learned.
Discovering and even accepting reality for what it is, however, only brings us partway into alignment. If we don’t shift gears – think and act in new ways - awareness just makes us more conscious of what’s not working. So the next step entails committing to doing something different so that we can monkey wrench our ingrained patterns. Opportunities to practice arise all day long. What shall we try instead of what’s not working?
Finally, having gathered information and practiced, we need to find a way to cooperate with how things need to be. If we consistently notice what’s called for and then do it (or not, as the case may be), we’ve entered a lifestyle characterized by peace of mind. On the other hand, over-investing in personal will and promoting unrealistic agendas will block us from the rewards of congruence. Some of these are ineffable – beyond words. Others are down to earth, leading to practical, effective solutions to our problems. In my experience, it’s absolutely worth the effort.
The most common objection I hear to working on congruence is a concern that it will lead to passivity, apathy or some other unappetizing element that doesn’t embody power, choice or action. Actually, the contrary is the case. Radical acceptance only looks submissive from the vantage point that precedes adopting it. In the moment, after the steps we’ve taken to live more cooperatively, we’re much more engaged and active in the world.
For example, if we’re not wasting time and energy overreacting to the fact that it’s raining on our wedding day, we can more readily devise a new indoor plan. In general, if we yield gracefully to what is, our best selves are the ones who cope. We’ll have more energy available too, since we’re not squandering it in arenas with little bang for the buck. Playing games in our heads about reality is exhausting. And when we focus on expectations, rationalizing, mental filters, or how things should be, we block the replenishing energy that’s available from life.
Reality happens here and now. We’re configured to be fed by actual experience, not the reductionist analogue of life we’ve constructed in our heads. The mind is a tool, but it thinks it’s a CEO. Mine is also like a drunk monkey writing science fiction stories. Each time it finishes one, it convinces the rest of me that this new one is a terrific guideline for delineating reality and making choices. It turns out that it rarely is – not without experience-based learning in the mix.
Intellectual understanding, analysis, and interpretation are necessary components to navigate the world. But they’re all subsets of a greater process – awareness. When they’re out of proportion to in-the-moment elements, they block rather than aid awareness. What use is any ability if we can’t notice when we truly need to use it? Or how things are going when we do? Or if we were kidding ourselves that it’s even an asset at all?
Instead of chattering away about whatever fascinates it, the mind can prime us to do things. And it’s our experience of this doing that leads to the deepest learning. If we orient toward congruence, this process yields clarity, peace, and an awakening to the beautiful connectivity between ourselves and everything else. In fact, if we stay at it long enough, the concept of “everything else” melts and we come to know oneness.
At any given point in our psycho-spiritual evolution, some of us need glue and some of us need solvent. If you’ve read this far, I’m presuming that you’re interested in letting go of some aspects of your modus operandi, as opposed to the much easier task of solidifying what’s there. Thus, you need solvent. Awareness is solvent.
When you loosen your hold on paradigms, when you’re in the moment freely choosing a course of action, I suggest trying radical congruence. Put aside the demands of your ego and cooperate with whatever you sense is greater than you. In my experience, the practical value of this approach permeates all facets of life, even such things as finding parking spots, remaining healthier, and meeting amazing people. Perhaps the most fun consequence is the remarkable procession of significant synchronicities that begin appearing.
We can trust Life/Karma/The Universe/Goddess/God/Love. It/She/He always has our best long-term interests at heart, no matter how limited our ability might be to directly experience this truism in a given circumstance. This is the lesson I’ve learned. If I let things happen instead of making them happen, events are useful curriculum at worst and catalysts to directly know joy and love at best.