Wherever You Are…

3 08 2017

Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.
–Eckhart Tolle

Wherever you are, be there totally.

Last week, I was on vacation in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. Whether we were hiking to Treasure Falls or getting lost on our way to Piedra Falls, hot-potting in the natural springs in town or hot-tubbing on the deck at our rental house, I had no difficulty being totally there.

But while on the two-day drive home, it became harder to “be there” with each mile that flew under my wheels. Thoughts of the past, or the things waiting for me in the future (both near future and far), invaded my calm and I began to feel the anxiety, fear, overwhelm and shame that signal that I’ve lost that presence in the here and now. Back home, I had difficulty sleeping through the night, I felt the stirrings of panic over concerns (some beyond my control), and I felt generally stretched thin once again.

Why is it so easy to be fully present while on vacation, and so hard in daily life?

If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy…

How bad, I find myself wondering, is “intolerable”? I mean, I’m functioning. I’m capable of humor. I’m not facing the days with dread. On the other hand, I’m not happy with myself and with the daily choices I am making (or abdicating). How long can one drift in the “not exactly stage”: not exactly unhappy but also not exactly happy? Not exactly fully present here, not exactly somewhere else?

…you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.

I see the wisdom in this, but how do you pick one option? All are fraught with difficulties, and I’ve tried each at different points in my life – to varying degrees of success. What I think I’ve learned is that it isn’t a one-and-done prospect; you will have to keep choosing one of these options with each step along the path. Every time you land in a new spot, either you are fully there or you are eyeing one of these options.

If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now.

Something else I’ve learned, though I still have difficulty taking corrective action: Every day of not choosing is incrementally worse than the day before. The phrase, “Wherever you are, be there totally” sounds deceptively easy. But it isn’t as if we stay in equilibrium – things shift and change all the time. So we must shift and change too. Not choosing is allowing the universe to decide – which sounds more pleasant than it actually feels. And while accepting it totally may seem like the easy way out, it is so much more difficult in practice than moving or making some other change, because it is all interior work. At least if you remove yourself from the situation you are in, or you make some other outward change, those changes in and of themselves assist by offering momentum. Where you end up may not be great, but at least it is different!

If you aren’t happy, it is awfully difficult to reach the level of acceptance that takes you through to the other side of that unhappiness without actually moving someplace else.

Then accept the consequences.

One thing I know for sure: you live with the consequences whether you “accept” them or not. Consciously choosing to exercise volition: to leave or to change or to purposefully remain rooted and committed to where you are makes it easier to find that acceptance. When I can’t be fully present where I am, or I find it overly burdensome to accept the consequences of my choices, I know it is time to take a hard look at Tolle’s three options again – turns out the distance between not good and intolerable can be bridged fairly fast.

And while taking another vacation might be nice, I know it isn’t the long-term solution. Still. When you’re living on the plains, it is so easy to miss the mountains!