“Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one”.

There is a moment during, “The Keys to the Kingdom-Hope” when Jai comes to realize the limits of the mind. It reminded me of how slowly but surely I have become awed by the amount of surety and arrogance people invest in their opinions. I must apologize for such a crude title, but this remembrance brought forth this quote straight to the forefront of my mind and I believe it brings a light-hearted tone to what could indeed be quite a heavy subject.

The mind, of course, is an incredibly powerful tool, but is it as ‘limitless’ or ‘knowledgeable’ as we would like to believe? What believes this notion in the first place is the mind itself: I would say a delightful concoction created by the ego in order to limit us within this space?

Even if you were to argue that the mind holds the ability to grant us all knowledge and answers, how can you be so sure that the opinion you hold is correct? My ideas have changed so much over the years that I have become flabbergasted by the ability to still hold any self-importance behind them.

There is so much information, so much to think about, so much still to discover and yet, we think our personal viewpoints hold true prevalence in this world.

This does not mean that we should not have our own perspectives or that we shouldn’t think for ourselves, but that perhaps we should rather approach life with less conceit hidden behind  our constructed ideas of what we think life is.

The more we feel that our way of thinking or seeing some issue or idea is completely correct, either due to deep thinking on our own part or any sort of cultural zeitgeist, we fail to listen and listening is where solutions come from: listening is where compromise is born. You cannot learn anything if you are talking all the time or trying to be right.

As the Dalai Llama said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

 

Flexible not limber: Letting go of your plan

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans’? Well, whether or not you are religious, it is not hard to realize that life can be incredibly unpredictable. So unpredictable in fact, that sometimes the idea of making plans sounds absurd and letting go seems to be the only option.

One moment you’re laughing with someone, the next thing you’re standing over their grave, one moment you’re climbing your way up the career ladder, the next you’ve slipped and can’t seem to find your grip. Of course, it can be unpredictable in some wonderful ways as well: One moment you’re walking along and the next thing the love of your life pops out of nowhere like some sort of miracle, one moment you’re scrounging around for the next meal and almost like a dream, your big break walks right through the door with a wink: ‘I’m here!’.

Either way, it’s almost as if life likes to give us a tiny twirl when it thinks we’re getting a bit arrogant. It’s not hard to admit that the idea that such a tiny expression of the universe can control its ebb and flow is slightly hilarious.

Now, this is where a lot of people tend to get apathetic. ‘It doesn’t matter what I do anyway’, or ‘nothing I do works out’ are usually signs of a disillusioned person who got his or her first lesson in the illusion of control.

This is a trap and one that many spiritual people, including myself, fall into. ‘Let it be’ and ‘control is just an illusion’ is not code for sit on the couch the whole day and do nothing. Rather, it’s a reminder that we need to be flexible to the ever-changing tides of life. We need to let go of the idea that our planned out story may not be the best path and perhaps the universe has something greater in store for us.

This does not mean that we don’t plan. It just means that we are open to change when it comes along. We are open to letting go of our plan. This way we can step into our power and allow the divine waves of life to take us wherever it sees fit.

Surrender your suffering

‘Letting go’ seems to be a buzz phrase in any sort of spiritual and self-development community. Although, as Jai mentioned whilst we were talking about this topic, sometimes when people tell you to ‘just let go’, you actually want to reply with, well, to put it in a less crude way, ‘jump off a cliff’. On top of this, the term can elicit feelings of uneasiness, as people associate it with not really caring or putting no effort in. This could not be further from the truth.

The idea that surrendering your suffering in terms of a problem you are facing is a sign of weakness is perhaps a very westernized idea where anything that is not about control and ‘try try again’ is seen as giving up.

As Jai reminded me, life is a constant balance between holding on and letting go. Both of these can be conducive if used in the correct way at the correct time and neither is permanent.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference

Reinhold Niebuhr

You do not need to release your grip on a situation forever and always. Sometimes it is just the wiser choice to set the problem aside and focus on what you are certain you can control right now. What’s funny about this is that in some cases, by allowing yourself to unhinge your focus on that specific area of your life, a solution to whatever is bothering you might just pop up!

If you have ever had trouble with a maths sum, gone to sleep and woken up knowing the answer, you will know this to be true. Sometimes holding onto a problem actually worsens it.

In fact then, letting go or surrendering your suffering is actually an act of care as well as strength. You are allowing yourself to exercise power over what you can as well as not overcomplicating your current issue with overthinking. The entire obsession with what you can’t seem to change is just going to deepen your suffering.

It is simply the conscious decision that you have suffered enough, and you’re now ready to let go of that suffering.

So next time a friend or colleague with good intention utters the words ‘just let it go’, maybe try and resist your violent urges. There is, after all, something to be said for doing just that.

Loving others by allowing them to love you.

I have had my fair share of asking other people for help. I have dialed friends up at three in the morning, cried on the shoulders of loved ones and as we all do, repeated the same old chit chat of life drama day in and day out to a bunch of patient faces until finally, I got sick of it and decided to make a change. The thing is, although over the years I have learned that opening up and being vulnerable is actually a strength and not a weakness, there was still a part of me that felt like asking others for help was actually a burden on them. This is why when Jai asked me to write an article on; ‘loving others by allowing them to love you,’ I found myself at a bit of a dead end.

How was I actively giving love to others by asking them for help? Yes, of course, it is a scary thing to open up to another and I commend all those that spend their day to day lives with their hearts out on their sleeves but, am I still not taking time away from people by asking for their helping hand? Does it not take away from their well-being when I ask them to listen to me or give me a piece of advice? I was surprised to find that I, an advocate of throwing your heart out into the world, was still carrying around this destructive belief that my pain, my needs, and my weaknesses were a burden on others.

I started to think about all the times I had helped a friend in need, when I spent my days wiping tears and snot off my shoulder, I remembered the times when those who were going through a hard time called me at all hours of the morning and I began to realize that I love doing that. I love being there for people. Of course, there were times when I felt tired and a bit grumpy in the process but being there for others has always made me feel better, made me feel needed and made me feel loved and, let’s be honest, we all love to feel like someone needs us to some degree. We all love feeling like we are making some positive impact on the world. That’s why we join charity organizations, sign petitions or just do something simple like make food for our friends and family when they come over.

In a sense then, we are loving others by allowing them to love us. We’re giving them the opportunity to feel needed and wanted. So open up that weary heart, let them all in, and spread love around like your life depends on it.