One variant on mindfulness practice is that it’s possible to widen our feeling-range within which there’s no problem. Instead of treating each mildly negative feeling as if it needs to be remedied, we can simply notice what we’re doing and what the feeling tone is without expecting it to be pleasurable.
An analogy might be that when I moved to Australia from the northern hemisphere, the range of air temperatures I perceived as acceptable was expanded. In America I’d been accustomed to being outside only when the temperature was perfect – not too hot, not too cool. As a consequence I spent a lot of time indoors, where the temperatures were kept to a narrow range. Here in Brisbane, for some mysterious reason, it has to get a lot colder before we think of putting the heat on, and the humidity has to be awful before the air conditioner goes on. We spend a lot more time outside, and there’s an unspoken understanding that “too hot” and “too cold” are usually temporary conditions. It’s as if people adjust to the air temperature instead of adjusting the air temperature to be perfect for people.
In a similar way, we can widen our field of expectation. If we think we must always feel happy and contented, we’re sure to be unhappy a lot of the time, because things just don’t work that way. If we could feel OK being moderately happy or sad, sleepy or energetic, comfortable or not, imagine how much more smoothly things would flow.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t try to remedy sleepiness or address the causes of significant unhappiness or discomfort, but most of life falls into a big middle range where kicking against things as they are just makes more trouble, for ourselves and others. I’m recommending mindfulness, not passivity.
Here’s an example: one person tells you that another person said something critical about a third person. Your normal reaction might be to become indignant, and an urge would rise to confront the second person and set them straight. Another possibility would be to recognize that by your getting involved, the situation might grow into something bigger than it is now, to no one’s benefit. Without the particulars of the people and situation involved, there’s no obvious choice, but by remembering that there IS a choice, we can avoid making trouble when letting it go would have worked better. We could call it the “let it be” option.
Learning to let things be as they are is an important skill to develop. A corollary to keep in mind is that all conditions are passing, and if we don’t grab onto them and make them into problems, they will move on in the normal course of things. By expanding the scope within which we can feel OK, we are moving towards a reliable inner peace.