Being aware of all the resources we have, mindful of our blind spots, and able to act with choice, gives us the ultimate sense of freedom. And freedom is empowering.
Rather than reacting to situations like we always have, taking a moment to recognise what is really going on and choosing to respond differently, consciously, is what makes all the difference.
The more we feel we have some control over our life, the better we adapt to the circumstances we're in. Psychologically as well as physically.
To illustrate, let me tell you about a study that confirmed this. (Not delighted about the way the study was conducted but amazed about the results.) Scientists were studying 3 groups of rats and how their mind influences their body's ability to heal.
There were three groups of rats that had cancer. The control group received no treatment or special attention and 50% of them died and 50% got better. Then there were 2 other groups - both of which were given electric shocks - of which one group had the option to stop the shocks (by pushing a lever) and the other group had no such option.
The amazing result was that in the group that had the option to stop the shocks, they quickly learned to do so, and in that group 70% of the rats fought off the cancer and got well. In the other group, which also received electric shocks but had no option to stop them, after a while the rats were found to just lie listlessly, and only 30% of them survived!
Just let that sink in.
What does that tell us?
The group that received the electric shocks but felt they had control over it, recovered significantly better than the group that didn't receive any shocks at all! Whereas the group that felt they had no control over their life, gave up quickly in their minds and their bodies gave up too.
I see life being the same in this way. We all receive "shocks" as we go through life, which come in the shape of challenges, big and small.
The point isn't trying to avoid all the "shocks" life presents us with, but instead to respond to them with a sense of personal power, knowing that we can exercise choice in how we respond.
This allows us to grow through life. It helps us get wiser and stronger with every lesson and experience.
If we strive to avoid all the shocks though, we'll inevitably stay in our comfort zone, and not dare greatly in our lives - which will cost us feeling truly alive.
And as in the study, if we resign ourselves to the illusion that we're victims of our circumstances, that we have no say in how our life is going, that the circumstances are bigger than our power, we might end up just like those listless rats in the study that gave up.
We might end up managing our symptoms of discontent in various (unsustainable) ways, such as having one too many drinks in an attempt to take the edge off, or compulsive eating/spending/overwork... that may only compound the problem. Or we might try to close ourselves off from the world and build walls around us in an attempt to protect ourselves.
This is unsustainable because it's the equivalent of sweeping unwanted stuff under the rug....until there's no more space and it all starts to roll out.
Not wanting to face our situation, and claim back our innate power, comes with a high price.
Instead, what I propose is living courageously.
Which really means responding to our life consciously, taking control of the only thing we really have any control over - ourselves and how we respond to the world around us in every moment. The awareness we bring to our state moment to moment, the presence we bring to our relationships, the intentions we bring to our actions.
By choosing how we respond, rather than being thrown into reactions unconsciously, we develop a sense of inner strength, and inner confidence. We feel that we are the creators of our own lives, and don't let life just happen to us anymore.
This makes us stronger, more in charge of ourselves, and therefore more in charge of our lives.
It also makes us happier.