Nothing’s working the way I want…This wasn’t part of the plan…It’s just not fair…I HATE MY LIFE! Who among us hasn’t uttered these sour words of frustration from time to time? We’ll never be able to escape life’s curveballs, for it’s inevitable that life holds certain inescapable givens, says David Richo, a psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist who highlights these givens in The Five Things We Cannot Change…and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.
The inescapable givens
1. Everything changes and ends
2. Things do not always go according to plan
3. Life is not always fair
4. Pain is part of life
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time
While no one could likely argue with these truths, plenty of us fight them. Instead of accepting, or embracing them, we often answer their presence with a big screaming NO!—instead of a heart filled with gratitude—and, therefore, remain fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled.
Why on earth should we be grateful for this rollercoaster lot of life’s downward loops and drops of tough luck, misfortune and disappointment? There are powerful gifts that lie waiting in these five givens, Richo says, but to receive them, we first have to move from no to yes.
Richo says that, “Fear is a no to what is. To fear the givens is to be afraid of life, since they are its components. Fear prevents us from experiencing life fully and living in the moment by creating avoidance and attraction. We avoid what is unpleasant and we grasp at whatever makes us feel good.”
Rising to yes
So how do you move from no to yes? From the negative to the positive? Don’t fight what is, he says: “Every time a given is answered with a yes, we develop emotionally and spiritually; we advance in patience, forbearance, forgiveness, generosity, wisdom, appreciation, perseverance and unconditional love.” Richo adds that saying yes acknowledges “that whatever happens to us is part of our story and useful on our path.”
It is when we oppose these five basic truths, instead of learning how to live in the moment, that, he says, we resist reality, and life becomes an endless series of disappointments, frustrations and sorrows instead of one of inner peace. He adds, “Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental facts, however, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion and wisdom—in short, to find real happiness.”
Everything changes and ends
Richo notes, “Although everything changes and ends, things renew themselves and move through cycles that further evolution.” He adds that, “When things change and end, we become trusting of the cycles of life as steps to evolutionary growth. Yes alleviates our suffering by freeing us from clinging to anything at all.” Grieve and let go.
Things do not always go according to plan
“Although things do not always go according to plan, we sometimes sense a larger plan at work through synchronicity that opens startling possibilities,” Richo says. “Yes frees us from the suffering caused by the compulsion to be in charge.” Accept what happens and learn from it.
Life is not always fair
“Although life is not always fair, something in us remains committed to fairness and refuses to be unjust or retaliatory.” Have an attitude of “You win some; you lose some” while working for justice.
Pain is part of life
“Although pain is part of life,” he says, “we have ways of dealing with it and thereby we expand our powers to handle future pain and help others in their pain.” Also, saying “yes to this fourth given frees us from the suffering that comes from useless protest.” Allow pain that is natural and do not add to pain by attempting to control it.
People are not loving and loyal all the time
“Although people are not loving and loyal all the time, nothing has to get in the way of our acting with loving-kindness and not giving up on others. No human action can take away another human being’s capacity to love.” Speak up and say “Ouch!” while not retaliating.
Strength of the human spirit
As resilient beings, we are motivated toward growth, Richo says: “There is a vitality in us, a sparkle—a bonfire, actually—that cannot be extinguished by any tragedy. Something in us, an urge toward wholeness, a passion for evolving, makes us go on, start over, not give up, not give in. To accept the things we cannot change does not mean that we roll over but that we roll on.”