Friday, March 11, 2011

... loving what is ...

The three little words "loving what is" are ones that I still wrestle with.  However, with persistence, with trust that if I tried to live them I might eventually come to understand them ... I am now more able to embrace them.  Don't get me wrong, 'loving what is' does not come naturally to me.  My 'default' position toward the challenging realities of life is to resist them.  All of my education and early life experience has groomed me to want to make things better ... to smooth things over ... to develop ... to grow ... to heal.  And while an argument can be made for these impulses to struggle against reality (which are ones we all share), I have found they do not always allow me to live as skillfully as I do when I am able to love/accept the reality of what is.

If you are like me your first response is probably, 'but how can I possibly love that my home is threatened by flooding?', or 'how can I possibly love that my child is sick?'.  As a therapist who has heard about much suffering over the course of the years, I could not fathom how I could possibly 'love' the 'what is' of my clients' lives. 

With time I have come to understand that loving what is does not necessarily mean enjoying or celebrating what is.   For me it means accepting the reality of what has happened, that I cannot change it, and therefore, going with the movement of life from there.  And THEN, I have discovered that I can love the next impulse that arises within me - to be present to, to serve,  to want to work together with others affected by the 'reality' on how to resolve the problems it presents, etc. etc. 

Our next impulse - is the next 'what is'.  So if I have a toothache, I do not say, "I love what is so I will not go to the dentist.  I will go to my deathbed with a toothache."  No, with present moment awareness, I notice my impulse to make an appointment with the dentist and I love that impulse as the next what is.  If the dentist cannot see me for three days, I try to 'love' (accept) that as the next 'what is', and see what unfolds from there and 'love' (accept) that.

All the great healers know that pain exists for us all, but that we turn our pain into suffering by our very resistance to it.  Resisting what is is stressful.  It is hard on our body/mind/heart/spirit.  A stance of resistance literally means that we view life itself as an on-going threat.  Living with the specter of threat means our body/mind is always geared up for fight or flight - that we are emitting chemicals and hormones in response to the 'threat' that are not good for our immediate well-being or longevity.  Another way of interpreting 'loving what is', is letting go of our resistance to life as it presents itself.

When I catch myself  resisting what is, I try to use Byron Katie's sweet, simple system of inquiry and use her four questions.  Invariably I find that my resistance to what is, is based in muddled, misguided thinking.  You can read a previous post about Byron Katie and her four questions HERE.

Life is not static - it is movement and change and this Taoist concept of 'loving what is' is not static either.  What I cannot love, I try to accept - and with acceptance movement to the next thing occurs and I love that.  I love that I needed to shed tears when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer.  I love that I needed to figure out how to help without being intrusive.  I love that I was given an opportunity to walk into the middle of my deepest fears.  I love that I learned to live with so many unanswerable questions.   All that to say, you do not have to remain stuck 'loving' or 'accepting' what our ego-mind interprets as suffering, because there is always a next thing emerging and our task is to move with the flow of life and love (be with) the next thing that is.

Because, as you see, I have not yet mastered this mode of being, I often need little visual reminders such as the image above, that I can print and pin to a bulletin board.  My little ego-mind often wants to push this concept aside and condemn and fight with the reality of what is.  Then I see my visual reminder and I breathe a sigh of relief and have the opportunity shift my perspective.  Every cell in my body seems to relax when I embrace this perspective.

Perhaps those of you with more experience living from this enlightened, skillful perspective would be willing to give words here to how you interpret and live the concept of loving what is.

If, you too, would like a visual trigger to help you recalibrate your thinking you can download the above image HERE.  (I ask only that you not regift or sell it as your own, and that if you use it on your blog that you make a link back to where you found it.  :)

P.S.  We can use the the earthquake and tsunami in Japan as an example of a reality that our first impulse is to resist.  However, rather than becoming stuck with the resistance to what is, we can accept the reality of what has happened and that we cannot change it.  Then we can move with the flow of life and notice our impulse to want to help and love the 'what is' of that.  Railing woefully about how awful everything is keeps us stuck.  Moving with the flow of what is and our ensuing impulses, serves life and what is...while it is...until the next what is...


  1. Bonnie, the small visual I had of this photo on my sidebar, it looked like a huge tsunami wave crashing ashore! And it does go well with your topic - either way.

    Ofent, a personal attitude is "Accept ME as I am, but YOU need to change!" I am always trying (and often failing) to approach life with an upbeat attitude, to make the best of what is, no matter what (of course, I try to make things better if I can.)

    I have a small handful of friends who I consider succesful with this "virtue". I love being around them as they radiate positive and loving energy. They tend to be good listeners and have a strong faith in something.

  2. "ride the wave", "go with the flow" all good advice as we have no power over lots of things.

  3. a challenging thought indeed...esp in the hard times...but a freeing thought as well...i am one of those that is programmed to make things better as well...ugh

  4. HI Bonnie
    Another wonderful expression of "The Serenity Prayer".

    Love to you

  5. "We turn our pain into suffering by our very resistance to it." Guilty as charged....You have given me plenty to think about this evening!

  6. A timely message, Bonnie. I understand the concept but usually have trouble practicing it. It's a tough but helpful exercise. Thanks.

  7. Byron Katie is amazing! I so enjoyed your thoughts on her teaching...I know the truth of it, but putting it into practice is challenging for a strong INFJ like myself ....such a 'judger'!

  8. Hey, Bonnie, good post!

    Loving What Is can helpfully reframe our approach to life, especially when "Fighting What Is" doesn't work anymore. Your discussion explores the nuances of actually putting it into practice.

    As for me, I prefer to alter Byron Katie's words to say:

    Dancing With What Is

    Sometimes "What Is" moves lithely with us; other times "What Is" steps hard on our toes.

    Our goal is to dance with "What Is" gracefully and compassionately, stepping in sync with the rhythms of life's music.

    To attain this ideal, we must mind our hearts and bodies, our partner whether clumsy or comely, and mind the music and the step—especially when it's syncopated.


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