I seem to be spending a lot of time lately with friends who are feeling trapped by circumstances, who can only see what's fencing them in, and how green the grass looks on the other side -- which probably means they are reflecting some of my own feelings; I'm spending some energy looking at that.
So it's not all that surprising that when looking for something to read this morning (now that I've finished with Shambhala) I ended up selecting David Ricoh's book, The Five Things We Cannot Change -- which of course begins with a chapter on the inevitability of change.
We humans are such interesting creatures: We hate feeling trapped, but at the same time we resent the very changes that might free us from our traps. You know the old phrase -- "better the devil you know than the devil you don't." And many of us operate at that level, staying in work, relationship, or school situations that no longer feed us for fear the alternatives out there might be even worse. The appropriate choice might be to leave, but we're not willing to take the risk.
But of course, there are others of us who have a tendency to become obsessed with the negative aspects of a situation, and that negative obsession itself is what keeps us from being fed. In this case the appropriate choice would be to let go of the negativity and develop a more positive attitude; to learn to see the gifts in the present moment.
And then there are those of us who, at the first (or maybe the second) sign of difficulty, decide to cut our losses and run to something new. For those folks -- and I confess that at times in my life I've fallen into each of these three traps -- the challenge is to stay and face the music; to learn to see what it is in us that is being triggered by the situation, and to stay until we learn whatever life lessons need to be learned.
The question, of course, is this: how do we know which response is appropriate to a given situation? How do we " know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run?" According to that old Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, the answer is this:
"Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry hand's a winner and ev'ry hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."
I like the idea that every hand has both winning and losing potential. But the fact that I'm the one responsible for making the winning and losing choices can be scary at times. What do I need to throw away today? And what's worth keeping? It seems to me that the only way we can really know the answers to those questions is through prayer and meditation. And I don't mean the kind where you talk to God about all your problems. I mean the kind where you ask for help and guidance and then shut up and listen.
I don't know about you, but for me that's the hardest job of all.