The toilet episode says it all. Stuff happens (to bowdlerize the more apposite expression)-- life happens. Instead of fighting it, whatever it is, now I try to welcome it. I don't have to figure out why a stopped-up toilet was "exactly what I needed," I just have to get into that perspective and, once there, it instantly lifts me from my suffering. It doesn't mean I don't recognize how inconvenient, painful, and unpleasant some situations are, but I can acknowledge those experiences and let go of the need to figure them out or fix them. I can embrace the struggle, wrap both arms around the doubts and uncertainties in my life, and shift from being worried to being curious. If I can catch myself saying "I don't like this, I don't want that, I'm unhappy with this outcome, I'm anxious about that, I'm threatened by this," by shifting into a welcoming mode--"This is exactly what I want right now"--I find myself in a much better place psychologically. Then I can peacefully concentrate on cleaning up that rug.
Of course, I don't exactly want my toilet spilling all over my rug. When I tell myself, "This is exactly what I want right now," I'm disciplining myself to stay in the present moment--not to wish for other moments or to wish that my life was different at the moment, but to accept that this moment is all I have at the moment. The only power possible in the moment is to face whatever it demands. When we stop filtering every event through our judgments of what it should or could be like, what we really want, we become alert to our surroundings and curious about how we can interact with them. This is much more fun than complaining that the world isn't following the rules that our little egos generate.
How have these concepts altered my therapeutic practice? As a therapist and as just a person, I'm beginning to learn how important it is for me to embrace bad feelings and discomfort--all those emotions we spend so much of our lives trying to avoid--and then go on right through them to the other side. I'm learning that each time I'm tempted to resist a moment of distress, anxiety, or painful reflection about the past, I invite greater suffering. When I don't accept the present moment, everything bogs down from there. I generate a complaint, I declare there's something wrong, and I try to squirm my way out. At that point, I'm stuck in avoidance and can't move forward to actually solve the problem. But if I can open myself to the painful reality of the moment, I actually suffer less.