AN EXCERPT from Roger Housden’s Dropping the Struggle
Is it possible to love the life you have—acknowledging and accepting the conditions of your life exactly as they are—and drop the struggle to make you and your life different? That is the question that spiritual teacher and author Roger Housden invites readers to explore in Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book’s introduction.
Until a few years ago I had spent the greater part of my time in a more or less covert struggle with life. However well things were going, I often felt that something was not quite right. Either I didn’t want what turned up in quite the form it appeared, or I wanted something else that never quite materialized in the way I would have hoped. Always there was the pervasive feeling that something was missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
So I struggled to find the missing piece. I struggled for meaning and ran all over India and the Middle East looking for it. I struggled to feel that I was somebody rather than nobody, I struggled to find creative work that inspired me, I struggled with the past and with concerns for the future, I struggled in relationships, I struggled to improve myself, and sometimes I even struggled to get out of bed in the morning instead of hiding under the sheets. And yes, I would struggle to avoid the fact that I am not built to last and that the whole Roger show would be over before I’d even had time to discover what on earth it was all about.
And yet for much of my life I wasn’t even aware that I was struggling. It was so normal, and often so subtle—the background banter in my head as I went about my day—that I never even thought to call it a struggle; until, that is, I gradually became intimate enough with myself to acknowledge the feeling tones with which I moved through the day and to see through the ways I made my own life so needlessly difficult. Now the struggles are mostly over, or when they aren’t, I manage to see them more quickly for what they are and remember—mostly—to step out of the ring. Call it the natural wisdom of aging if you like. If I have not learned to drop the struggle by now, I probably never will.
Struggle happens for all of us, so it must have a place in the scheme of things, but I for one have spent way too much time struggling for what struggle can never accomplish. For struggle is not the same as effort—what is sometimes called “right effort.” We all need to make an effort in every area of our life, effort that allows us to fulfill an intention or that edges us toward what we know to be true, even if we don’t inhabit it now. Life doesn’t just provide us with food and shelter as a natural right. Roger Federer didn’t become the tennis champion he is without effort. If you are anything like me, you didn’t make it through college without effort. Effort is a natural exertion of the personal will toward a specified end.
But struggle is an added push that is born of fear. Ultimately, it is born of the fear of not surviving, of dissolving and disappearing, not just as a physical form but as a psychological self. Struggle reinforces the ego’s identity. It is one of the ways the ego asserts its existence.
Yet struggle will never get us the things we want most—love; meaning; presence; freedom from anxiety over the past and future; contentment with ourselves exactly as we are, imperfections and all; the acceptance of our mortality—because these things lie outside the ego’s domain. For these, we need another way. That way begins and ends in surrender, in letting go of our resistance to life as it presents itself.
We struggle with reality when we lose touch with the dimension of our being that is not defined by our egoic identity. Who or what is larger than the ego? You are. This book is dedicated to that larger, indefinable you, to reminding you to rest back into the life you already have, just as it is. And I say “reminding you” because deep down we already know. It’s easier than you think, but it takes more than an hour-long yoga class.
It takes an allowing, in the form of a persistent, deep, and courageous Yes! to life right now. That Yes doesn’t wave away the pain of the world as mere illusion; neither does it attempt to become some detached awareness or witness safely removed from the trials of life. It doesn’t mean not caring about what happens in the world or in our own lives. It means caring so much that the heart spills open. It means being willing to be fully here where we are, wherever we are, however dark or light it happens to be.
When that Yes happens, we open our arms to life as it appears and disappears, moment to moment. We fall back into the larger aliveness that we already are, out of range of the ego’s dictates. This is true relaxation; it is what we are here for. And it is what this book is for: to help you celebrate seven different ways of dropping the struggle and loving the life you already have.
Care to read more?
Roger Housden is the author of many books, including the best-selling Ten Poems series, which began in 2001 with Ten Poems to Change Your Life and ended with Ten Poems to Say Goodbye in 2012. He offers writing workshops, both in person and online, with an emphasis on self-discovery and exploration. Visit him online at www.RogerHousden.com. (The above excerpt is from Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have. Copyright © 2016 by Roger Housden. Printed with permission from New World Library: www.newworldlibrary.com.