2015 was not a banner year for me. To be honest it had its ups and downs. On the up side I was invited to speak to the Fulbright Scholars on the topic of disability. I also spoke at several colleges and at the State of Oregon Diversity Conference. On the down side I was laid off from my part-time job, experienced a major depression, a family incident, and many of my relationships changed. No matter how many times it happens I’m always amazed how people will stand back and watch things happen that they know are wrong. That is me having expectations of people (which I really need to stop doing).
In life it seems the question, “Why me?” always arises when bad things happen, but never when good things happen. In reality there is no good or bad, situations are situations and we are the ones who assign it a value. “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Since I came back from Africa I’ve been trying to live in the present and it’s incredibly difficult. I started and have continued to read Eckhart Tolle, particularly “The Good Earth.” Some very valuable advice that I have been trying to apply:
- The “normal” state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness.
- Life isn’t as serious as my mind makes it out to be.
- What you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself.
- The facts are always neutral.
- What you do to others, you do to yourself.
- Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.
- Non-reaction is a conscious alignment with the higher order.
- Bad turns into good through the power of non-resistance.
- One of the greatest sources of suffering is attachment.
So let’s be honest, I’ve always been an over-achiever trying to prove that I belong in this world and I really, really suck at living in the present, but I’m trying. And everyday I have victories and setbacks. Letting go has been one of the hardest things for me. So really 2015 wasn’t bad or good except for the fact that I assigned it the value of bad.
In 2015, I started my own business consulting and speaking and not only did I step out of my comfort zone, I stepped off a ledge. Not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from is a huge stress for me. But despite that I agreed to meet my friend Kari, who is spending a year overseas, in France for Christmas. (You can hear an interview with Kari about her own experience about letting go.) It was the opportunity of a lifetime that wasn’t going to come again. We rented a car and explored France spending Christmas and New Year with my French family.
Over Christmas we’d bought some cookies that weren’t worth wasting our calories on, so on December 29, one by one I assigned them the name of an incident or a person that I had designated as “bad” in 2015 and tossed them out the window. The rain poured down on us as we drove out of St. Emillion through the vineyards tossing cookies out the window. At the same time both Kari and I gasped at the sight of a double rainbow. She hits the brakes and we pulled off the road to revel in the moment. In that instant when the earth shined on me, the things that I had struggled with in 2015 seemed insignificant. I dumped the rest of the cookies in the ditch without assigning them a name or an incident.
The big step that I made this year was letting go of my need to know what is next. It has caused me a lot of angst and I’m still struggling with it, but I’m making an effort and for that I give myself a lot of credit.
So I invite you to “toss your cookies,” don’t hold onto things or people that cause you stress or angst or aren’t that great. Remember when you felt like you had to puke and how awful it felt, remember how much better you felt after you vomited? Holding onto regrets, anger, grudges, it just fills your body with things that make it sick.
Please don’t think that because I literally and figuratively tossed my cookies means that I won’t still struggle with some of these things, but what I do know is that I’m trying, and that my friends, is three-fourths of the battle.
I hope 2016 manifests everything good in your life. That your sorrows are few and your joys are abundant. And I wish this for everyone, yes even the people to whom I assigned the value of “bad” in 2015. Because forgiveness is non-resistance and the key to living in the present.
I ask for your thoughts and support as I continue along this difficult, but important path.