Conduct and observance

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Monday, December 4, 2006

The Terms of Exchange

Every event I perceive is a transaction between my inner self and the outer conditions. We could say there is an exchange between the two.

How does that go?

Whenever things don't correspond to my terms, I react negatively to them almost the instant they arrive. I see this in myself all the time. For example, I am sitting at work and I get some unexpected, annoyingly nit-picking demand in an e mail that's going to take time and effort to execute, and I get angry right away.

It invariably takes a second to stop and remind myself that this is what I get paid for- that it's entirely proper for me to have to do this, and I should acquiesce and take care of it, not react belligerently.

Usually- after I pause, breathe, and tell myself that it's not so bad, really- it gets done and it turns out it was no big deal. Certainly not as significant as my initial reaction to it was.

I tend to identify things that don't conform to my expectations as obstacles. I want to control everything, you see, and I don't understand that life is not about control of the exchange. It's about participation in it. So I misunderstand the terms of the exchange from the very beginning.

Why do I do that? I think it's because of fear of outcome. I want to control the outcome of every exchange so that it satisfies me. I don't see that (a) that's completely impossible and (b) entirely unreasonable. After all, it's an exchange, and the half of it that lies outside myself is forever entirely outside my control. Even if I do what appear to be exactly the right things, they may not produce the expected results. So, as the saying goes, it's all in God's hands from the get-go. What's required of me is to make my best effort, and I can't do that if I start out by misunderstanding the terms of exchange.

In order to better understand the terms of exchange in my life I have to be willing to surrender the fear of outcome. If I go into exchanges unburdened by that fear, then some new things can happen.

First of all, I don't have a negative inner tyrant automatically making all my decisions for me. He's still in there, sure, but his voting power is diminished. There's a flexibility available.

Second of all, conditions don't automatically get labeled as obstacles. We all have a machine in us that does that on a 24 hour basis. Once a condition doesn't get identified as an obstacle, I can begin to perceive it differently.

I can get creative with it.

Maybe that condition is an asset! Who knows? I definitely don't- every condition that arrives is actually is new and untested- and only by exploring it can I inform myself. In my own case, it's downright surprising how many conditions that I would have- or did- label as obstacles turned out to be assets.

Accepting the terms of exchange and surrendering the fear of outcome is a lifetime work, I think. These ideas help remind me of why cultivating acceptance is so vital to my inner practice.
The obstacles I encounter, inner and outer, are obstacles only for as long as I continue to refer to them as obstacles.

If I can perceive them differently- participate in their existence, so to speak, instead of trying to batter them down and trample them- they begin to slowly melt.

It takes time, but a little sunlight can melt a lot of ice.

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