We were with Deb’s mother, Anne, in England. We were invited for tea at the House of Lord’s (more of that below) and were preparing to get a train to London. In a bit of a rush we were quickly downing breakfast when the toast got burnt. We watched in amusement as Anne took a deep breath and said, “Oh dear, burnt toast,” calmly tossed it in the trash and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.
Few of us usually have such a reaction to burnt toast, especially when we’re in a hurry. But Deb’s mom displayed the same attitude of calm acceptance later that day when we were having tea in London.
Now, being invited to the House of Lords does not happen every day, but we were there to discuss a meditation project with one of the younger Lords. It is a stunningly beautiful old building, seeped in history and tradition and was a real treat for Ed, who grew up in the Bronx. We sat in the chambers and listened to the debate; we walked through the Queen’s robbing room where her throne sits; and then we went for tea.
Tea in the regal Tea Rooms sounds quintessentially English and we fully expected it to be of good English quality. The room was spectacular, the service was everything we could have wanted, but the cakes were not—they were old and dry—not good Brit fare at all!
Accepting and simply being with what is, is a quality that Deb’s mother has perfected. It showed itself as she delicately ate her most unappetizing chocolate éclair, without a single complaint. It is a quality that we can learn in every moment that doesn’t go our way. But, instead, we usually spend our time wishing things were different – whether it’s the big things like our partner or job, or the small things like the weather, burnt toast, or chocolate éclairs.
When we resist ‘what is’ then we create more suffering for ourselves, as there’s a constant, underlying dissatisfaction, otherwise known as the ‘If Only…’ syndrome: if only this, that or the other happened, then I could be happy; if only so-and-so would change his or her behavior / lose weight / find a job, then I could be happy; if only I had more money / a bigger house / went traveling / had a good lover, then I could be happy. The list is endless. You can fill in the blanks for yourself.
Accepting what is, as it is, doesn’t mean that we become like doormats and get walked over by all and sundry. Rather, it means recognizing that what happened even just a second ago can never be changed; it is letting the past be where it is so it doesn’t take over the future. This frees our mind.
We can either make a song and dance about burnt toast and get even more stressed, or we can take a deep breath and put a fresh slice of bread in the toaster.