September 5, 2007

Reality Is Good...Is That True?

A reader recently asked me:

"The assumption that reality is good seems odd. Just because reality is not always changeable and must be accepted sometimes just the way it is, that doesn't mean it's 'good'.

"I must be misunderstanding that assumption, because it seems so utterly strange to me."

It's a strange one for most of us, who have lived our entire lives believing our thoughts. And yes, it's an assumption if not lived out and deeply understood from an experiential level.

Here's another really strange assumption, from where I sit: reality must be accepted sometimes just the way it is." That can't possibly be true, because we don't always accept it. That's reality. We accept, or we do not.

However, any belief that argues with reality is going to feel uncomfortable. On a small, personal scale, we can start with the body. My unquestioned thought: "My hip shouldn't hurt." Reality: it does. That is what is happening now. If I believe what I think--which is, that my body should be different than it is, in this moment--I now have pain and suffering combined. I may want to question what I believe. Is it true that it shouldn't hurt? Can I know that this hip pain is not for my highest good? (That's going to seem weird, until you sit with the question.) How do I live my life when I believe my hip shouldn't hurt, and it does? What is my attitude when taking care of the issue? Do I come from a place of loving and caring for my body, or resenting it?

If I turn that statement around--"My hip should hurt"--and find genuine examples of why this could be as true or truer, I discover that reality is a lot kinder than my story about it. Reality--hip discomfort--turned out to be good. This doesn't mean I won't need a hip replacement, or that I can't pop an ibuprofen. It's just what's true in the moment: this "bum" hip is okay by me. Why might this throbbing socket be a good thing? Perhaps it is letting me know of an underlying condition that needs my attention: my spine needs straightening by the chiropractor, or my shoes are wrong and I need orthotics.

It could be that there are lessons I need to learn about the benefits of living with limited physical ability, so that I won't waste time feeling sorry for the "disabled" people I work with, who are perfectly fine until one of us says they are not.

Maybe I need to cultivate gratitude for this body which I have taken for granted. I was flat on my back for a better part of a year...and it was a good year. I facilitated a lot of people by phone, made wonderful "Work" friends on's hotline, and got back into the very beneficial practice of swimming regularly again, once I was able to.

If my hip didn't hurt this week, and I had gone out dancing the other night, I might have been flattened by a car on the way, so this prevented me from leaving the house on a day that wasn't my time to die.

I could go on. I could also do the same exercise with war in the world, war in my family, a partner who cheats on me. There is always available to us what I call a parallel universe of peace. When I am willing to not always be right and righteous, it can always be found, and fully experienced.

Here's what Byron Katie says about the inherent goodness of reality, excerpted from her book Loving What Is:

"I am a lover of what is, not because I'm a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is, because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don't feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless."

Katie also suggests not to believe what she says, but to test it, since it is easy to do if you use inquiry as an exercise for getting at the truth. "Reality is good" is up for questioning. You can't believe what you have not realized for yourself.

I can say that reality is good because I've discovered this to be true, again and again. I may not be cognizant of reality's inherent goodness in the moment, if I'm witnessing or experiencing something that feels unfair, painful, or cruel. However, since I began to apply the four questions and turnaround of this simple process of The Work in my life--as long as there has been willingness to know what's real--I have not yet found anything in the world that isn't medicine.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carol,

Here's what I notice - there's the concept of 'good', which has an opposite of 'bad' - so the mind takes 'reality is good' and tries to make 'bad' things 'good', which it can't do :-)

But when I do The Work there's a sort of acceptance that sometimes comes about as a really cool byproduct of inquiring - from there reality is good in a completely different way to the 'good' that I first mentioned.

In fact, the labels fall away - even saying 'reality is good' falls away - it's just a signpost to the experience - a best attempt at describing it.

And, of course, I'm writing this for myself more than you or anyone else! :-)

With love, Jon

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Exactly, that's why Katie says "God is good, God is everything" is the last story. It's still a story, and therefore can never be true. Although, as long as it's a happy dream, there's no reason not to keep it.