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The spiritual challenge I’ve been given: To endure things not going my way.  Whether a love affair, a publishing opportunity, or an income projection, what I want is often not what comes to pass.

Given that we live in a time of car bombs and landmines, of famine and debilitating disease, of gang warfare and ethnic cleansing, mine doesn’t seem an overwhelming burden.  Still, I suffer.  Something very American in character, to suffer over not getting one’s way.

By Thy will.

This aspect of Americanism seems at odds with the nation’s supposed religiosity.  I suppose the faithful believe if only I pray hard enough, if I live right, then God will reward me by making things go my way.  Like Santa.

Even the New Age adherents believe that if one only projects the intention with sufficient force and clarity, if only one resolves the inner conflicts or ambiguities that block or derail success, then one will surely attain what is desired.  So, if things don’t go my way, I have only myself to blame.

My way or the highway, the saying goes.  How many of us have taken to that highway, exiled ourselves, thumb extended skyward, our few remaining hopes bundled in a bandanna on a stick slung over the shoulder.  Like a child who runs away from home because things did not go my way.

We feel aggrieved.  Abandoned.  Brutalized by life.  Nothing is wrong, nothing unrecoverable, but we feel victimized, betrayed.  Shit happened.  Life did not work out the way we planned.

In rare enlightened moments, I might allow that I have but a fragmentary understanding of the big picture.  That perhaps my plans were shortsighted, not truly in alignment with my highest good.  That what the Universe has in mind for me is better, much, much better.  But such moments are fleeting, and I soon return to my sulk.

The conditioned response of the American character is to do something.  To protest.  To fight.  To let everyone know exactly how miserable this turn of events has made me.  How unacceptable is the outcome.  How I am destined for greater things.  To withdraw, to flee.  You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.  To take charge.  To kick ass and take names.  To not take this lying down.  To demand an explanation.  To feed the suffering.

It is out of character to accept the circumstance.  Sit with it.  Observe the disappointment.  The sense of uncertainty.  The not-knowing.  Sit quietly and regroup.  Ponder the nature of expectation, of impermanence.  Allow that these things, too, are part of the mystery.  Sit and follow the breath.  Feel grateful for the breath.  Realize that I am fine, actually, here in this moment, still intact.  That nothing has changed except that illusion has been stripped away.  How naked it feels to be stripped of illusion.  Observe the world.  Sun or clouds.  Breeze through leaves.  Birds still streaking the sky.  Find room for gratitude.  Reconnect with the spirit that sustains.  Sit and wait for something to become clear.  For whatever is next to emerge.