I remembered what Byron Katie wrote, "I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer... Freedom is as simple as that..... Do you want liberation? Just fall in love with what is." While some view this perspective as simplistic and lacking in empathy, there is something there that makes profound sense to me, and the ocean, one of my best teachers, offered me an example of how to apply this to my life.
This time of year, my beloved beach usually offers quiet warm water and a gentle breeze, with very few people in the early morning. Most mornings I can find an hour or two to do yoga and meditate looking out on the wide expanse of water. But yesterday morning there were thousands of tiny fish schooling at the shore, bigger fish chasing them and even bigger fish hunting the big fish. And chasing the big fish were hordes of fishermen, yelling to each other in excitement, flinging hooks through the air. My pristine and quiet beach was not in evidence today and my visit was short. I could have gone home and felt sorry for myself, longing for my quiet beach day. Or I could hang out in my garden, play with wool, watch a movie, and enjoy my day. It is my inner choice as to whether I am happy or sorrowful, not the external events.
Some external events, like the loss of a loved one, seem too huge to "love what is". A Zen aphorism states: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." Surely I will feel my pain and grieve, but the extent of my suffering is determined by what I tell myself about the events in my life. I can get angry at my losses and look for someone to blame, or blame myself, and be deeply unhappy for a long time. Or I can be grateful for what I have been gifted with in this life, recognizing that it all is impermanent anyway. We will lose it all, but I have this day, and I get to choose how to spend it. And I can choose to spend it with gratitude and appreciation for what is, and find my way back to joy.