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The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Introduction

There are some things in life over which we have no control, probably most things. We discover in the course of our lives that reality refuses to bow to our commands. Another force, sometimes with a sense of humor, usually comes into play with different plans. We are forced to let go when we want so much to hold on, and to hold on when we want so much to let go. Our lives— all our lives— include unexpected twists, unwanted endings, and challenges of every puzzling kind.

Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Protestant theologian, composed a prayer that has become the cornerstone of the recovery movement: " God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." This is a profound aspiration. But what are the things we cannot change? Are they unique to each of us, or are there some things that all of us must acknowledge and accept in order to find peace in our lives?

As a psychotherapist working with clients— and in my own life— I have seen the same questions and struggles arise again and again. There are five unavoidable givens, five immutable facts that come to visit all of us many times over:

1. Everything changes and ends. 2. Things do not always go according to plan. 3. Life is not always fair. 4. Pain is part of life. 5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

These are the core challenges that we all face. But too often we live in denial of these facts. We behave as if somehow these givens aren't always in effect, or not applicable to all of us. But when we oppose these five basic truths we resist reality, and life then becomes anendless series of disappointments, frustrations, and sorrows.

In this book, I propose the somewhat radical idea that the five givens are not actually the bad news that they appear to be. In reality, our fear of and struggle against the givens are the real sources of our troubles. Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental, down-to-earth facts, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion, and wisdom— in short, to find real happiness.

A given is a fact of life over which we are powerless. It is something we cannot change, something built into the very nature of things. From one point of view, there are many givens. In addition to the five disturbing givens stated above, there are also delightful givens: we experience bliss, our hopes are sometimes exceeded, we discover unique inner gifts, things have a way of working out, luck comes our way, miracles of healing happen.

There are also givens that apply only to us as individuals: our body shape and personality, our unique psychological and spiritual gifts or limitations, our temperament, our genetic makeup, our IQ, our conventional or unconventional lifestyle, whether we are introverted or extraverted, and so forth.

There are in fact, givens in every thing we do and in every place we enter. A given of having a job is that we might advance or we might be fired— as well as any number of possibilities between. A given of a relationship is that it may last a lifetime or it may end with the next phone call. In this book I will explain why we need not feel despair in the face of the givens of our lives. We can learn to accept life on its own terms. We can even find its terms satisfactory. We do not have to shake our fist at heaven. We do not have to demand an exemption or take refuge in a belief system that muffles the wallop of the givens by promising a paradise without them. We can craft a sane and authentic life by saying yes to life just as it is. Indeed, our path is " what is."

The story of Buddha's enlightenment illustrates that the givens of life are the basis of our growth and transformation. The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince. His father tried to protect him from encountering pain or displeasure. The king created a life of utter perfection for Siddhartha, providing him every possible satisfaction and shielding him from all unpleasantness. But one day the young prince wanted to see what lay beyond palace walls. When he ventured out, he soon encountered sickness, old age, and death— the natural conditions of every life— for the first time. These sights moved him deeply and set him on a spiritual journey that ultimately led to his enlightenment. His legendary transformation began by facing the laws of life with curiosity and courage.

From ancient times, the five givens have puzzled and chagrined humanity. Religions offerresponses to mysteries like these. Throughout this book I will draw on teachings from Buddhism and other world religions. Spiritual traditions offer us valuable resources, models, and inspiration for facing the givens of life openly and with equanimity. I rely most heavily on the Buddhist tradition because that spiritual tradition emphasizes the importance of seeing through our illusions and facing up to life's givens in order to become more fully who we are meant to be.

The Unconditional Yes

Each of the givens or conditions of existence evokes a question about our destiny. Are we here to get our way or to dance with the flow of life? Are we here to make sure everything goes according to our plans or to trust the surprises and synchronicities that lead us to new vistas? Are we here to make sure we get a fair deal or are we here to be upright and loving? Are we here to avoid pain or to deal with it, grow from it, and learn to be compassionate through it? Are we here to be loyally loved by everyone or to love with all our might?

The ancient Romans spoke of amor fati, the virtue of loving one's fate. Some of us find it hard to handle the anxiety aroused by the conditions of our existence; we fight against our human situation. The method for handling the givens and gearing them to our destiny is stated most clearly by Carl Jung: " Givens can be embraced with an unconditional yes to that which is, without subjective protests, an acceptance of the conditions of existence . . . an acceptance of my own nature as I happen to be." Such a yes is a willingness to land on concrete reality without a pillow to buffer us. Such a yes makes us flexible, attuning us to a shifting world, opening us to whatever life brings. Such a yes is not a stoic surrender to the status quo but a courageous one— an alignment to reality. Once we trust reality more than our hopes and expectations, our yes becomes an " open sesame" to spiritual surprises. In this book, I will suggest how to discover the spiritual riches that lie within our most challenging experiences.

Yes is the brave ally of serenity; no is the scared accomplice of anxiety. We find help in saying yes and in facing the givens through mindfulness— that is, through fearless and patient attention of the present moment. We also gain support from nature, from psychology, from religious traditions, and from spiritual practices. These are the resources and tools presented in the pages that follow.

Hamlet speaks of " the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, " a poetic definition of the givens of life. When something happens to us that echoes with the painful thud of any of the unalterable conditions of existence, we can ask, " What can I learn here? How does this serve?" We can learn to trust the givens of life as having transformative or evolutionary potential. We can trust that the laws of existence somehow help us to achieve our destiny.

The givens of life may seem like cruel jokes perpetrated upon us by vindictive universe. They could seem like penalties for a waywardness we inherited but did not cause. They may even seem like spiteful tricks to make our lives miserable. In an antiquated theological view, they are considered the punishments enacted by a vengeful God upon us exiles from Eden for an original sin. The unconditional with its implicit trust of the givens' usefulness to our growth, cuts through that fear-based view of life. Saying yes to reality— to the things we cannot change— is like choosing to turn around and sit in the saddle in the direction the horse is going. Sitting that way is mindfulness, an honoring of the here and now without the distractions of fear or desire. Mindfulness is an unconditional yes to what is as it is. We face our issues in the here and now without protest or blame. Such a yes is unconditional because it is free of conditioning by the neurotic ego: fear, desire, control, judgment, complaint, expectation. When we are mindful, we meet each moment with openness, curiosity, fear, and kindness. Mindfulness is both a state of being and a daily spiritual practice, a form of meditation.

Why Me?

When faced with one of life's givens, we might ask: " Why did such a terrible thing happen to a good person like me? I deserve better." The mindful version of that question is: " Yes this happened. Now what?" We will notice we are happier when we accept what we do not like about life as a given of life. Our mindful yes is an entry into this sheltering paradox.

When we make an unreserved consent to the things we cannot change, we are saying yes to ourselves, as we are, in our ever unfolding autobiography. The conditions of existence are our personal experiences, not alien forcesor

Synopsis:

In warm and encouraging terms, therapist Richo shows readers how to drop their resistance to the difficulties of life and discover their greatest gifts.

Synopsis:

Why is it that despite our best efforts, many of us remain fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled in our lives? In this provocative and inspiring book, David Richo distills thirty years of experience as a therapist to explain the underlying roots of unhappiness--and the surprising secret to finding freedom and fulfillment. There are certain facts of life that we cannot change--the unavoidable givens of human existence: (1) everything changes and ends, (2) things do not always go according to plan, (3) life is not always fair, (4) pain is a part of life, and (5) people are not loving and loyal all the time. Richo shows us that by dropping our deep-seated resistance to these givens, we can find liberation and discover the true richness that life has to offer. Blending Western psychology and Eastern spirituality, including practical exercises, Richo shows us how to open up to our lives--including to what is frightening, painful, or disappointing--and discover our greatest gifts.

Synopsis:

Introduction

There are some things in life over which we have no control, probably most things. We discover in the course of our lives that reality refuses to bow to our commands. Another force, sometimes with a sense of humor, usually comes into play with different plans. We are forced to let go when we want so much to hold on, and to hold on when we want so much to let go. Our lives--all our lives--include unexpected twists, unwanted endings, and challenges of every puzzling kind.

Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Protestant theologian, composed a prayer that has become the cornerstone of the recovery movement: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a profound aspiration. But what are the things we cannot change? Are they unique to each of us, or are there some things that all of us must acknowledge and accept in order to find peace in our lives?

As a psychotherapist working with clients--and in my own life--I have seen the same questions and struggles arise again and again. There are five unavoidable givens, five immutable facts that come to visit all of us many times over:

1. Everything changes and ends. 2. Things do not always go according to plan. 3. Life is not always fair. 4. Pain is part of life. 5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

These are the core challenges that we all face. But too often we live in denial of these facts. We behave as if somehow these givens aren't always in effect, or not applicable to all of us. But when we oppose these five basic truths we resist reality, and life then becomes an endless series of disappointments, frustrations, and sorrows.

In this book, I propose the somewhat radical idea that the five givens are not actually the bad news that they appear to be. In reality, our fear of and struggle against the givens are the real sources of our troubles. Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental, down-to-earth facts, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion, and wisdom--in short, to find real happiness.

A given is a fact of life over which we are powerless. It is something we cannot change, something built into the very nature of things. From one point of view, there are many givens. In addition to the five disturbing givens stated above, there are also delightful givens: we experience bliss, our hopes are sometimes exceeded, we discover unique inner gifts, things have a way of working out, luck comes our way, miracles of healing happen.

There are also givens that apply only to us as individuals: our body shape and personality, our unique psychological and spiritual gifts or limitations, our temperament, our genetic makeup, our IQ, our conventional or unconventional lifestyle, whether we are introverted or extraverted, and so forth.

There are in fact, givens in every thing we do and in every place we enter. A given of having a job is that we might advance or we might be fired--as well as any number of possibilities between. A given of a relationship is that it may last a lifetime or it may end with the next phone call. In this book I will explain why we need not feel despair in the face of the givens of our lives. We can learn to accept life on its own terms. We can even find its terms satisfactory. We do not have to shake our fist at heaven. We do not have to demand an exemption or take refuge in a belief system that muffles the wallop of the givens by promising a paradise without them. We can craft a sane and authentic life by saying yes to life just as it is. Indeed, our path is what is.

The story of Buddha's enlightenment illustrates that the givens of life are the basis of our growth and transformation. The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince. His father tried to protect him from encountering pain or displeasure. The king created a life of utter perfection for Siddhartha, providing him every possible satisfaction and shielding him from all unpleasantness. But one day the young prince wanted to see what lay beyond palace walls. When he ventured out, he soon encountered sickness, old age, and death--the natural conditions of every life--for the first time. These sights moved him deeply and set him on a spiritual journey that ultimately led to his enlightenment. His legendary transformation began by facing the laws of life with curiosity and courage.

From ancient times, the five givens have puzzled and chagrined humanity. Religions offer responses to mysteries like these. Throughout this book I willdraw on teachings from Buddhism and other world religions. Spiritual traditions offer us valuable resources, models, and inspiration for facing the givens of life openly and with equanimity. I rely most heavily on the Buddhist tradition because that spiritual tradition emphasizes the importance of seeing through our illusions and facing up to life's givens in order to become more fully who we are meant to be.

The Unconditional Yes

Each of the givens or conditions of existence evokes a question about our destiny. Are we here to get our way or to dance with the flow of life? Are we here to make sure everything goes according to our plans or to trust the surprises and synchronicities that lead us to new vistas? Are we here to make sure we get a fair deal or are we here to be upright and loving? Are we here to avoid pain or to deal with it, grow from it, and learn to be compassionate through it? Are we here to be loyally loved by everyone or to love with all our might?

The ancient Romans spoke of amor fati, the virtue of loving one's fate. Some of us find it hard to handle the anxiety aroused by the conditions of our existence; we fight against our human situation. The method for handling the givens and gearing them to our destiny is stated most clearly by Carl Jung: Givens can be embraced with an unconditional yes

Product Details

ISBN:
9781590302095
Subtitle:
And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them
Author:
Richo, David
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications
Subject:
Personal Growth - General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
January 2005
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
9.12x6.32x.73 in. .93 lbs.

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The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them Used Hardcover
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Product details 192 pages Shambhala Publications - English 9781590302095 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In warm and encouraging terms, therapist Richo shows readers how to drop their resistance to the difficulties of life and discover their greatest gifts.
"Synopsis" by , Why is it that despite our best efforts, many of us remain fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled in our lives? In this provocative and inspiring book, David Richo distills thirty years of experience as a therapist to explain the underlying roots of unhappiness--and the surprising secret to finding freedom and fulfillment. There are certain facts of life that we cannot change--the unavoidable givens of human existence: (1) everything changes and ends, (2) things do not always go according to plan, (3) life is not always fair, (4) pain is a part of life, and (5) people are not loving and loyal all the time. Richo shows us that by dropping our deep-seated resistance to these givens, we can find liberation and discover the true richness that life has to offer. Blending Western psychology and Eastern spirituality, including practical exercises, Richo shows us how to open up to our lives--including to what is frightening, painful, or disappointing--and discover our greatest gifts.
"Synopsis" by , Introduction

There are some things in life over which we have no control, probably most things. We discover in the course of our lives that reality refuses to bow to our commands. Another force, sometimes with a sense of humor, usually comes into play with different plans. We are forced to let go when we want so much to hold on, and to hold on when we want so much to let go. Our lives--all our lives--include unexpected twists, unwanted endings, and challenges of every puzzling kind.

Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Protestant theologian, composed a prayer that has become the cornerstone of the recovery movement: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a profound aspiration. But what are the things we cannot change? Are they unique to each of us, or are there some things that all of us must acknowledge and accept in order to find peace in our lives?

As a psychotherapist working with clients--and in my own life--I have seen the same questions and struggles arise again and again. There are five unavoidable givens, five immutable facts that come to visit all of us many times over:

1. Everything changes and ends. 2. Things do not always go according to plan. 3. Life is not always fair. 4. Pain is part of life. 5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

These are the core challenges that we all face. But too often we live in denial of these facts. We behave as if somehow these givens aren't always in effect, or not applicable to all of us. But when we oppose these five basic truths we resist reality, and life then becomes an endless series of disappointments, frustrations, and sorrows.

In this book, I propose the somewhat radical idea that the five givens are not actually the bad news that they appear to be. In reality, our fear of and struggle against the givens are the real sources of our troubles. Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental, down-to-earth facts, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion, and wisdom--in short, to find real happiness.

A given is a fact of life over which we are powerless. It is something we cannot change, something built into the very nature of things. From one point of view, there are many givens. In addition to the five disturbing givens stated above, there are also delightful givens: we experience bliss, our hopes are sometimes exceeded, we discover unique inner gifts, things have a way of working out, luck comes our way, miracles of healing happen.

There are also givens that apply only to us as individuals: our body shape and personality, our unique psychological and spiritual gifts or limitations, our temperament, our genetic makeup, our IQ, our conventional or unconventional lifestyle, whether we are introverted or extraverted, and so forth.

There are in fact, givens in every thing we do and in every place we enter. A given of having a job is that we might advance or we might be fired--as well as any number of possibilities between. A given of a relationship is that it may last a lifetime or it may end with the next phone call. In this book I will explain why we need not feel despair in the face of the givens of our lives. We can learn to accept life on its own terms. We can even find its terms satisfactory. We do not have to shake our fist at heaven. We do not have to demand an exemption or take refuge in a belief system that muffles the wallop of the givens by promising a paradise without them. We can craft a sane and authentic life by saying yes to life just as it is. Indeed, our path is what is.

The story of Buddha's enlightenment illustrates that the givens of life are the basis of our growth and transformation. The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince. His father tried to protect him from encountering pain or displeasure. The king created a life of utter perfection for Siddhartha, providing him every possible satisfaction and shielding him from all unpleasantness. But one day the young prince wanted to see what lay beyond palace walls. When he ventured out, he soon encountered sickness, old age, and death--the natural conditions of every life--for the first time. These sights moved him deeply and set him on a spiritual journey that ultimately led to his enlightenment. His legendary transformation began by facing the laws of life with curiosity and courage.

From ancient times, the five givens have puzzled and chagrined humanity. Religions offer responses to mysteries like these. Throughout this book I willdraw on teachings from Buddhism and other world religions. Spiritual traditions offer us valuable resources, models, and inspiration for facing the givens of life openly and with equanimity. I rely most heavily on the Buddhist tradition because that spiritual tradition emphasizes the importance of seeing through our illusions and facing up to life's givens in order to become more fully who we are meant to be.

The Unconditional Yes

Each of the givens or conditions of existence evokes a question about our destiny. Are we here to get our way or to dance with the flow of life? Are we here to make sure everything goes according to our plans or to trust the surprises and synchronicities that lead us to new vistas? Are we here to make sure we get a fair deal or are we here to be upright and loving? Are we here to avoid pain or to deal with it, grow from it, and learn to be compassionate through it? Are we here to be loyally loved by everyone or to love with all our might?

The ancient Romans spoke of amor fati, the virtue of loving one's fate. Some of us find it hard to handle the anxiety aroused by the conditions of our existence; we fight against our human situation. The method for handling the givens and gearing them to our destiny is stated most clearly by Carl Jung: Givens can be embraced with an unconditional yes

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