If I Was In Charge
What would you change if you were in charge of the world?
I would give everyone safe housing, food, and a well-regulated nervous system so we wouldn’t be ruled by our primitive brain and fight/ flight/ freeze survival strategies
Systemic oppression would disappear along with greed, objectification and exploitation
Everyone would be free to express themselves without fear of being excluded and we would live in glorious creative expansive connection
People would be kind to ourselves and each other, animals, and the earth
I could go on and on but this feels a bit futile, like fantasizing about how to spend lottery winnings. I’m not in charge of these things. Let’s move the inquiry closer to home.
What would you change if you were in charge of the people close to you?
They would stop doing those things that are unhealthy — they’d leave that toxic relationship, they would not be addicted to a behavior or substance that helps them escape, they would be mentally and physically well
I wouldn’t have to be afraid for them or of them
People would pay attention behind the wheel and slower drivers would pull over to let me pass lol
What would you change if you could control your own life?
With our own body and personal life, we have more agency but not complete control. Many factors that we didn’t ask for influence our daily life. Some of these have to do with family, some with unknowns like Covid or accidents, and many are from society’s systems and culture. Some are random like the slow driver who pulls out in front of us on a 2 lane road.
We can’t win when we argue with the reality that we’re not in control. It is relatively easy to see what others “should do” to fix their life. It is even easy to see what we “should do” to fix our life. It’s frustrating that just knowing what we “should do” isn’t the answer to real change.
Fixing our everyday life and the outside world would resolve many of our frustrations and fears because it would calm our nervous system. It is also true that inner acceptance of reality will give us space to see what we have stored inside. We are all capable of working internally on building resilience and resolving our fears.
Practice with ordinary circumstances that cause a reaction. When someone is driving too fast, there is a danger. When someone is driving slower, we are more likely to be annoyed than afraid. Someone isn’t doing what we think they should. We can’t make them change. We feel powerless to make them go faster. This is an opportunity to inquire. We can change the experience by changing our response.
A reporter once asked the Dalai Lama whether he held anger towards China. He replied ‘They have taken everything from us, should I let them take my mind as well?’
The type of unconditional acceptance the Dalai Lama exhibits feels like a stretch for most of us. Life is unfair. We really do need to know what’s going to happen so we can keep ourselves safe. If other people would just do what they should, we’d be less anxious. Even though this is true, it is not how it works.
Acceptance has many facets. One is to come to terms with the reality of our life situation and our lack of control, without going into feeling powerless and overwhelmed. We have options as adults, and we can exercise the agency we do have individually and coming together with others.
Another element of acceptance is to allow ourselves to be human without shaming ourselves for not being perfect. There are facts about our lives. For me, I had childhood trauma and turned to food, alcohol and other drugs to make it through that awful time. I quit drinking in my mid twenties but the disordered eating continued off and on through my life. This has left an impact on my body and my health. Some of these things I can’t change. What I can and have changed is that I don’t shame myself anymore.
Take a few deep breaths and let your body relax. This is workable.
Guided Inquiry: I Can’t Control or Predict the Future