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I Did Yoga and Meditated and All I Got Was This Lousy Inner Peace

My life has not turned out the way I hoped or imagined it would but I'm learning to be present and open for whatever it is. I'm developing compassion and patience for myself and others... blah blah blah. Okay, so when does the good stuff happen? I've learned the lessons and I've grown as a person so when does my prince show up? When does my career take off? Where is my cookie for having learned about myself and suffered so much?

In the chapter titled "Abandon Any Hope of Fruition," in her book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Pema Chödrön describes a stress reduction clinic run on Buddhist principles: "If there's some sense of wanting to change yourself, then it comes from a place of feeling that you're not good enough. It comes from aggression toward yourself, dislike of your present mind, speech, or body; there's something about yourself that you feel is not good enough. People come to the clinic with addictions, abuse issues, or stress from work with all kinds of issues. Yet this simple ingredient of giving up hope is the most important ingredient for developing sanity and healing."

How can hope be a bad thing when we're told to never give it up? Many of us are raised in results-oriented cultures that tell us all sorts of myths and fairytales that actually prevent us from healing and being present in our own lives. We're told work hard and you'll see the fruits of your labor or once you meet the right person then everything will fall into place. We tell ourselves everything will work out once we lose that weight or get that job or some other thing that's completely out of our control happens to go exactly the way we wanted it to. And then when things don't go according to plan or something tragic or disappointing happens, we fall back into that familiar pit of despair and feel foolish for having dreamed of a better life.

When I drift away from the practice and feel vulnerable and bad about myself, I sometimes cling to the old fantasies that my circumstances will magically change and I'll suddenly love myself and be happy with my life. It feels good to take the responsibility off of myself and passively await someone or something else. The truth is, I have plenty of friends who have what I always wanted— they are beautiful, married, have children, brilliant careers, fame, wealth, etc.— and they are often just as miserable as anyone else. Those external things never fully do the job that we all have to do for ourselves eventually, which is to learn to love ourselves as we are right now and be present when it would be easier to reminisce about the past or fantasize about the future.

All we have is the present moment. The peace that comes from relaxing into our current circumstancesespecially if our situations are painful and we're not where we want to be is the cookie. The reward is making peace and befriending the discomfort and having the courage to face it head-on. There's a reason this spiritual journey is called the path of the warrior. This sh*t is hard! It requires a tremendous amount of courage to say okay, this is who I am, this is where I am. How can I find a way to be okay here and okay with myself?

Pema Chödrön advises, "If you're going to be a grown-up— which I would define as being completely at home in your world no matter how difficult the situation— it's because you will allow something that's already in you to be nurtured. You allow it to grow, you allow it to come out, instead of all the time shielding it and protecting it and keeping it buried... Right now today, could you make an unconditional relationship with yourself? Just at the height you are, the weight you are, the amount of intelligence that you have, the burden of pain that you have? Could you enter into an unconditional relationship with that?"

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