Every morning my daughter plays meteorologist by checking the weather and announcing it to the family. When we’re in for a warm and sunny day, I feel joy. If it’s cold or snowy — or worse, both — I feel a mix of dread, sadness, and anger. But the common ingredient is the strength of emotions I feel about the weather: INTENSE. My like or dislike of the weather is anything but subtle.
In the summer, when most of my weather feelings are joyful, this is less of an issue. But when the first fall chill arrives, I start to live with dreadful anticipation of THE WINTER. I prepare for the dread of the winter way before it arrives, thereby not really enjoying the beauty of fall other than in rare moments. I constantly catch myself thinking about how it will feel when my walk in the morning is a lot colder come December, even as I walk on a beautiful October morning when the temperature is perfectly comfortable, the sun is shining, and the leaves color my world in incredible hues.
As I write this now it sounds a bit ridiculous. And I am fully aware that the degree of my emotional involvement with the weather is at best, silly, and at worst, a huge drag on my life. But I’ve recently developed a different perspective on it, and perhaps one that can help me learn to let it go.
For the past several months I’ve tried to live by a simple mantra from Ram Dass, whom I consider one of my spiritual teachers: Be. Here. Now. It’s incredibly simple and yet profound — not to lean forward into the future, not to get stuck in the past, and instead, be fully awake in the present moment, whatever the moment is. It’s a practice that seems easy and yet is one of the most challenging and emotionally difficult ones I’ve undertaken. (And I imagine one that it will always remain a practice without a perfect outcome.)
My dread of the winter is the definition of not being here now, it’s all about leaning emotionally into the future. And in that, it’s not just an annoying habit but an obstacle on my spiritual journey to become more awake to the life I am living at this very moment.
Last week I was in Florida for a speaking gig and picked up a book to take with me on the flight: The Surrender Experiment. It’s beautifully written and if you’re at all curious about living with less struggle and constant pushing, fighting, forcing, you’ll enjoy it. In one of the chapters, the author, Michael Singer, talks about practicing acceptance of whatever came his way. He describes it as surrendering to what life puts in your path and not judging it — not expressing your like or dislike of it, not wishing it were different or that you might have more of it, just accepting it as something that is exactly how it should be.
I was reading this chapter while sitting on the balcony outside my hotel room, in the middle of a sunny and hot Florida day. It got me thinking about my attachment to weather and the degree to which I allow it to affect how I feel. Could I practice acceptance and surrender to whatever weather greets me every day, without experiencing feelings of joy or dread about it? Can I simply accept it as it is?
I don’t know the answer but I excitedly decided to give it a try. I see this practice of acceptance as a close soulmate to the practice of gratitude. We can’t be grateful for something unless we are fully awake to it and we accept it exactly how it is, without judging it or wishing it were different. Can I be grateful for snow and freezing rain? How about wind and rain on a morning walk? Can I learn to live every day of this beautiful fall without the constant “This is nice but soon it’s going to get really nasty outside and then I am going to be really unhappy…” soundtrack running through my mind?
Surrendering and accepting aren’t exactly words that have had a lot of use in my vocabulary for most of my life, nor do we live in a culture where they are celebrated. I know I made the mistake for a long time of thinking that accepting something meant being complacent about it.
But it’s not at all, actually. Being awake to things as they are in our lives, accepting them without judging with our likes or dislikes, allows us to see them clearly and from that point of clarity make better decisions about what we want to do at that moment — with “nothing” being a viable option. (Like put on an extra warm jacket and huge scarf when the weather gets freezing in Boston.)
Is there something in your life which is draining your emotional energy? Can you find a way to practice acceptance and surrender to that reality, to tame your dislike of it, your judgement of how you wish it were? From my early experiments with practicing acceptance of the weather, I can say it’s worth a serious try.