The Lesson of the Heavy Rain
One afternoon, I had to get up to Salt Lake City from Highland, UT to teach a workshop. I knew I had to leave by 5pm to drive the 30 mile journey during rush hour (well, our version of rush hour) to arrive early enough to set up. I was wrapping up a counseling session with a client, but the issues he was dealing with had to be sufficiently "tied up" prior to leaving the session, to ensure that his level of distress was manageable.
I hopped in the car at 5:15.
Usually, that's still enough time. But not that day.
After only a few miles heading north on I-15, I ran into a sea of brake-lights, and my hoped-for 70 miles per hour plummeted to 20. I felt myself getting angry - angry at all the drivers on the road, angry at myself for not wrapping up the previous session sooner. And then, as I approached the scratched and dented vehicles that were causing such a delay, I felt myself getting angry at them as well.
I was stressed out and frustrated, reciting over and over the scenario of me arriving late. What would they think? How could they have any confidence in my message if I'm not there, prepared, calm, and ready to lead this event that they sacrificed a lot to attend. I mean THEY were on-time. Why wasn't I? I continued gripping the steering wheel, scowling at everyone around me, and I'm sure my blood pressure was climbing by the second.
And then, it surfaced at the most aware part of my mind: "The lesson of the heavy rain."
A colleague of mine shared this with me just a couple of weeks prior to this experience. Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a 17th century Samurai turned philosopher, shared many of his philosophies of life that were later published in a collection entitled Hagakure. This particular nugget of wisdom says simply this: "The lesson of the heavy rain: As long as you accept the fact that you will get wet, you will not suffer from being wet."
On the surface, this may seem almost too elementary. But pick it apart, and this is one of the most simply profound descriptions of what Dialectical Behavioral Therapists call RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.
So, back to me, driving north on I-15, cursing everyone around me, "suffering" because I was going to be late. The moment I contemplated the lesson of the heavy rain in the car, everything began to calm down. My breathing, (probably) my blood pressure, my thoughts and feelings toward my fellow drivers - all of it. Nothing I could do in that moment would change my arrival time. I had almost instantly ACCEPTED the fact that I was going to be late. And hence, I ceased to suffer because I was going to be late.
How many times have we allowed ourselves to suffer for things that are well-beyond our control? How much anger, worry, or frustration have we literally chosen to experience for things in the past - whether a minute or a year behind us - when perhaps simple acceptance could have freed us up to experience a sense of peace instead?
I suggest reminding yourself of the internal power to choose our emotions, and the next time you are frustrated, stressed-out, cursing those around you, remember the lesson of the heavy rain.