You aren't in control (this is great news)

As a society we tend to view mental and emotional suffering as a pathology. We view dark emotional states as enemies to be shoved away, we view depression as a disease and mental health issue, and we tend to see sadness as a weakness.

It’s been my experience that evading and medicating any of these “less desirable” feelings hasn’t removed them from my experience entirely. In fact, running from them inevitably winds up being a useless pursuit as they always find me again, somehow and someway.

So today, let’s look at things a little differently (if only for a moment). I want you to consider this: whatever you’re feeling right now — deep down — is not an error, mistake, or pathology. Whatever it is that you’re feeling right here and now is also not your choice. You didn’t conjure sadness, depression, or anxiety, and you didn’t manufacture thoughts that tend to be depressive or self-defeating. These thoughts and feelings are downloaded into your experience and can appear with or without your consent. Even if we decide to take up a positive thinking practice, this doesn’t mean that those same self-defeating thoughts won’t arise independent of your efforts to keep them away. Likewise, if we aim exclusively for happiness, this doesn’t make us exempt from experiencing other less-happy emotional states.

If we could control our emotions, thoughts, and feelings, you’d think that we’d have successfully done so by now. If you’re anything like me, all efforts to aim for permanent happiness have only shown me that such a quest makes me suffer much more. 

The good news is this: you aren’t really in control of anything at all. To the small self, this may be anxiety-producing. However, to what you really are, this is pure creative freedom and liberation. The small mind likes to think that it can successfully orchestrate emotional states, events, and thoughts with keen precision, but it isn’t difficult to see that things are always happening that are beyond what we’ve anticipated (no matter how scrupulously we’ve tried to control what’s happening) and “less favorable” mental and emotional states seemingly arise on their own accord without our willing them to be. We are one part of an interconnected web of life (one big, giant, synergistic ecosystem if you will) and just as the trees don’t effort to produce fruit, our efforting is a grand illusion (one that produces more frustration and suffering than “fruit”) and we can relax back into that effortless place of ease, creativity, and spontaneous fruitfulness.

By releasing the need to “control” and “know”, we surrender to what’s here, to what’s arising, and to the divine, intelligent order of life. Here, you reconnect with that intuitive, creative, all-encompassing life force and it begins to be seen that nothing arises in error, that nothing could possibly be a mistake, and that even our seeming imperfections are absolutely perfect. 

From this place, when emotional states like anger or deep sadness arise, we can gently surrender the need to repress or medicate them away and see the perfection in these, too. We might find that we begin sitting with old sadness from a place of presence rather than efforting to keep it at bay — we might find that that sadness doesn’t really belong to us as small, limited selves, but these sadnesses, fears, and human longings are as ancient as humankind itself. With this understanding, we don’t take these emotions personally, but we can begin holding them with compassionate understanding. It may begin to be seen, if we become more still and present throughout our days, that the pushing away of uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, and feeling-states makes them intensify — we begin to see that in their purity, minus the mental state’s interpretation, they are quite innocent indeed.

So here is what I’d like to say: trust. Fully and completely trust what’s arising in the here and now even if it is “unhappy”. Stay in this place of whole-hearted trust, presence, and innocent curiosity and your relationship with yourself and all that is can become one, compassionate love affair based on the knowing that you’re it — not a small self that needs to effort and control, but something that the entire universe is doing.

Begin observing all that arises with presence and curiosity, knowing that even the stormiest of emotions will pass — the storm will subside in the light of your conscious presence. There’s nothing to be done; hold what comes as a welcome visitor and suddenly enemies are turned into friends and wise informants.