In my experience of five years of living mindfully, one of the most useful things we can do for ourselves, for our long-term well-being, is to fix our spiritual roof when the sun is shining.
What I mean by that is practicing acceptance of the way things are, and being able to sit with what is, when life is pretty good (the sun is shining) and we’ve got a really minor difficulty.
For example, several months ago I was in a pretty good mood and as usual I went out jogging. Now, I have lockdown hair that’s getting pretty long, so I’ve taken to wearing a headband when I run (think John McEnroe in the 80s) to stop it getting in my eyes.
That day when I was running, it was cold and rainy and I had my headband on, and my wet hair started to whack against my headband by my ears with each and every step I took. Whack, whack, whack. Because of the headband being over my ears, the sound was amplified quite a lot.
It became really annoying in a short space of time and I just wanted it to stop. After a couple of minutes of running, whilst being irritated by the distracting noise, I slowed to a walk and, muttering, I took my headband off and readjusted it in an attempt to correct the noise.
Off I went again. Within about half a minute there was that noise again. Whack, whack, whack again with every step. I stopped, grumbled some more, and repositioned my headband again, but I just couldn’t make it stop and I was less than a quarter of the way into my run. Really? Urgh!
Then I had a light bulb moment because I realised this was an excellent chance for me to fix my spiritual roof whilst the sun was shining. The racket was exceptionally irritating not because the noise was intrinsically that way but because I made it so with my reactivity to it.
So I tried something else instead. I decided to see if I could accept the noise as it was. I began running again and rather than think “I wish this would stop,” I paid attention to the frustrated thought, disengaged myself from it, and just watched it (as I also watched the road). In the end, that annoyance, under my nonjudgemental and direct gaze, slowly dissipated until it was nothing.
Then I turned my attention to the noise itself and got really curious about the sound by my ears. I put all my concentration on it and paid attention to every minute detail without thinking whether it was good or bad. By not following my negative thoughts, and then using acceptance of what was, I managed to make friends with what had been driving me to distraction only moments beforehand.
It wasn’t long before that horrible noise, that had made my run so dissatisfying, was the perfect rhythm to my exercise, and it became a running meditation in itself. What I had done is practice acceptance of what is.
And that is what fixing your spiritual roof whilst the sun is shining is. It means taking something really minor, when we’re generally okay with our day, and using that slight difficulty to practice nonjudgemental acceptance. Regularly practicing in this manner, throughout our day, is a great way of flexing those equanimity muscles and giving them some training.
Just stop and think about your day. We are human; we’re designed to spot the negatives so we can resolve them—so we have the opportunity to practice almost all the time.
It could be our hair whacking against our ears as we run in the rain, or an annoying itch that we decide to observe rather than scratch, or our reactions to our team letting in a goal, or the fact we are annoyed that our partner wants to watch sports when we hate it, or even that we forgot to pick up the very thing we went to the shops for and we’re really fed up. It can be anything minor that happens in our lives that normally we’d react to negatively toward and wish away.
If we do that enough times, then when something much more difficult hits us (as it surely will), we’ve got half a chance of maintaining our inner peace in that difficult time.
The practice won’t stop sad events being unhappy (mindfulness can’t reverse what has happened in life or stop strong emotions from arising), but it can help us come to accept what is and be at peace with those events far quicker than if we’d never practiced at all.
What can you use to fix your spiritual roof today?