5 steps to living a positive and peaceful life

October 27, 2009 4:21:35 PM PDT
Five steps to de-stressing and accepting what you can and cannot change.
  • It is What It Is. Until It's Not.
    These two simples sentences contain the key to a life of serenity. Now to many, those sentences may actually sound like surrender, like giving up completely. So let's be clear. Working to make a positive difference regarding any realm of your life is always a great idea. It's part of what makes us human. But real, lasting change always begins with ACCEPTANCE. If you want to heal a hurtful legacy from your childhood, first accept all of that hurt. If you want to improve your job satisfaction, first accept whatever makes the job unsatisfying. If you want to promote social or environmental justice, first accept the current injustice.

  • You're Already a Master of Acceptance, Even if it Doesn't Seem That Way.
    You never look at a bird and think that it should be a dog. You're in complete, 100 percent acceptance of that bird, as it is, in all its birdness. But now think of all the "birds" in your life that you've decided SHOULD be "dogs." I call this bird-dogging. Maybe you think that your partner should listen to you more. Or that your kid shouldn't talk back. Or that your boss should stop being such a jerk. But you know what? It is what it is. All of it. Until it's not.

  • There's a Glitch in Your Brain.
    Imagine jumping into the ocean. As soon as you hit the water, you realize that the ocean is freezing. Instantly, your body recoils, sending the message that this experience is intolerable. Your mind begins screaming urgently, "Get out! Get out! Get out!" This is the opposite of acceptance. It happens whenever you bird-dog. And it's not your fault. It's the result of an evolutionary glitch in your brain. Here's how that glitch plays out. One part of your brain says, "I don't like this, and sends out bad feelings to your body as a way to let you know. But another part of your brain views those feelings like footsteps in a dark alley. Like they're life threatening. So it says, "No way, never," and tries to push away those feelings. And until you rewire this glitch you'll always stay stuck, working at cross purposes, miles away from acceptance.

  • The Surfing Solution.
    The way to rewire your brain is to go surfing. Here's what I mean. Let's go back to that ocean and imagine a surfer on a wave. Two things moving together in exquisite unison. But if the surfer starts thinking of what just happened on the wave - wipeout. If the surfer starts worrying about what's about to happen - wipeout. What makes for a great ride is a soft stance, an ability to, literally, go with the flow. Now for our purposes, it's your mind's attention that's the surfer, and those bad feelings in your body that make up the wave. As soon as you notice them, instead of doing anything not to feel them - like drinking, eating, checking your email over and over - go surfing instead! When you surf your emotions directly, your brain updates. It realizes, "Oh, okay, this won't kill me." And that allows you to relax, to open up, to accept the situation with every cell of your being. Plus, this is the state of being in which you always feel your best, and do your best, too. Which leads directly to the positive change you were looking for to begin with.

  • Yeah, But.
    All this sounds too good to be true, especially for people who are in such pain that it seems like either nothing will ever change, or that actually feeling all those bad feelings would be torture. So for anyone who may be thinking that right now, let me share a personal story. Many years ago my first wife had an affair and left me. I was devastated. I couldn't believe that our seemingly perfect marriage was gone in a flash. Every moment of every day felt like the polar ice caps. I bird-dogged from morning till night. I accepted none of it, not one bit. And I suffered like never before. Then one day I just gave up. Stopped fighting and started surfing. And little by little I got my flow back. I didn't like my circumstances any better, I still wanted everything to change, but right there, even in the middle of all that pain, I got my first real glimpse of serenity.

About Raphael Cushnir

Raphael Cushnir is a leading voice in the world of emotional connection and present moment awareness. He has shared his unique approach to personal and professional development with millions of readers in O, The Oprah Magazine, Beliefnet, Spirituality and Health, Psychology Today, and The Huffington Post. He is the author of three previous books, lectures worldwide, and is a faculty member of the Esalen Institute, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, In addition, he coaches individuals and teams at Fortune 100 companies, governments, religious organizations, and leading non-profits.

For more information visit: www.cushnir.com


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