The other day, I posted the following quote on social media: “Consider that every painful emotion you have ever experienced has been self-created by resisting your reality. It’s never the thing we think we’re upset about that’s actually upsetting us. It is our resistance. When you accept reality exactly as it is, you are at peace.”
To this, I added, “When you accept reality exactly as it is, there is no pain, only peace. Instead of resisting reality, accept it unconditionally, giving yourself the gift of inner peace, and from that place of unconditional peace, you can choose to experience any reality that you want.”
Several members of the Miracle Morning Community responded. They wanted to talk about the trauma, sadness, and pain they’ve felt in their own life caused by losing others and enduring difficult circumstances.
On today’s podcast, I want to address this. I want to teach you how to free yourself from emotional pain. I want to help you find the power and purpose in emotional pain and discover how to access the emotional freedom that is available to all of us, right now.
- Why emotional pain and suffering are self-created, how to make the most of these feelings, and how to only dwell in painful emotions until they stop serving you.
- How to extract value from your emotional pain and use it to your advantage.
- The reasons we have trouble accepting reality when it doesn’t meet our expectations.
- How the Five-Minute rule and the Can’t Change It philosophy can inform your practice, help you make a clean break from your suffering, and allow you to take back control of your mental and emotional state.
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Hal Elrod: Goal achievers, members of the Miracle Morning Community, welcome to the podcast today. I am excited, grateful, happy that you are here with me and I think today's solo episode is, I would imagine, hopefully, going to be very helpful for a lot of people. I know that what we're talking about today has been a game-changer for me over the last 20 years and talking about freedom from your emotional pain. What inspired today's episode is I posted a quote on social media. In fact, I've been way more active on social media than I normally am posting quotes and then accompanying that quote with a post itself to go deeper on whatever is said in that quote. And the other day I posted a quote and I'm going to read the quote, and then I'm going to read the post that accompanied it. So, the quote said, "Consider that every painful emotion you have ever experienced has been self-created by resisting your reality. It's never the thing we think we're upset about that's actually upsetting us. It is our resistance. When you accept reality exactly as it is, you are at peace.” So, that was the quote.
And then here's the post that I wrote to accompany the quote, "Could it be that the cause of our emotional pain is never actually the thing, person, event, circumstance, etcetera, that we think is causing our pain. Instead, consider that our emotional pain is always self-created by our inner resistance to reality. In other words, it is our wishing and wanting that reality were different, which is a form of delusion that causes all of our mental and emotional sufferings. And it is to the degree that we resist our reality that determines the degree of emotional pain that we experience. When you accept reality exactly as it is, there is no pain, only peace. Instead of resisting reality, accept it unconditionally, giving yourself the gift of inner peace, and from that place of unconditional peace, you can choose to create an experience any reality that you want.
Now, when I write something, whether it is a book or a quote, almost always, I usually will spend, I mean, believe it or not, I probably spent 30 minutes writing those, a couple of paragraphs because I really try to think through what I post and I think, “Okay.” I'll write something and then I'll read it and go, “Okay. What might people think or feel or experience when they read this? Is there anything that I'm saying even any words?” They call this word, smithing, which I'm OCD about. Are there any words that might trigger people in a way that doesn't have the impact that I'm intending to have with this post? And I'll tell you a couple of words that I played within the quote. It says, "Consider that every painful emotion you have ever experienced has been self-created by resisting your reality. It is never the thing we're upset about that's actually upsetting it.” So, the reason I point that out, the word never or the word always are very, actually, I changed that at one point and then I turned it back.
I took out never and I put usually and then I went back to never because when you really understand this and today we're going to go really deep and when you really understand this, you understand that it's this universal principle and it's really not circumstantial. It applies to everything. However, I'm going to read you one of the responses to this post here in just a few minutes that didn't agree with it. So, I can't agree with it. In fact, I'll read you the quote right now. She said, "One of our members of the Miracle Morning Community,” this was actually when I posted it in the Miracle Morning Community, the Facebook group. She said, “I can't say I agree every painful emotion is self-created. I think of losing my father and sister whom I love dearly, and the pain I felt and still feel. That pain is a result of my reality that I'll never see these two humans whom I love again. That was and still is the thing that I am sad about. Maybe I'm misunderstanding Hal’s message.”
And what prompted today's podcast is as I was typing her response, I thought, "You know what, probably a lot of people feel this way that, yeah, I don't get it like I'm not resisting my reality. I have a crappy reality that causes me pain such as I lost my father and I lost my sister and those are very real experiences and very real emotions. And so, I wanted to address that here because I have found that this principle of emotional pain being created or self-created by our resistance to our reality is true. In fact, I applied this way back when I had my car accident. I was 20 and I didn't really know what I was doing and when I was told I would never walk again. I thought, “Okay. Well, I can't change it.” So, rather than resist that reality and wish that I could walk or wish it were different, I'm going to accept it 100% unconditionally exactly as it is. And when I did that, there was no pain.” The pain was wishing and wanting that I could walk again when the doctors were telling me that I wouldn't.
And as soon as I accepted it unconditionally, I went, “Oh, okay. So, if I'm in a wheelchair the rest of my life and I just accept that and I don't wish that I weren't, there's no pain. I'm at peace with it. I'm completely at peace with it.” I've applied this to losing loved ones. I've applied this to people in my family that have died. And we're also going to talk today about, by the way, how emotional pain isn't bad. There's actually a benefit. There's a purpose. So, I'm not telling you that you need to be a robot and you're not allowed to feel any painful emotions, not at all. And that'll all make sense I think here as we go through this.
Hal Elrod: So, there's really four things I want to address today. Number one, I want to address Aaron's comment and anyone listening to this, your objection to the notion that all emotional pain is self-created. So, I want to talk about that. And really, from a place of empathy and sensitivity like I can't ever put myself in another person's shoes or I can try but I can't pretend to know what it's like to be someone else based on your emotional or your model of the world and the tools or resources mentally and emotionally, intellectually that you have to process your emotions. And all I'm doing today is attempting to give you a tool, a strategy that will enable you to more effectively manage your internal state. As the world is going a little crazy right now, I'm doubling down, I'm tripling down, I'm going all-in on mastering my inner world. I think that for all of us, that's what we need to do right now. In fact, it's been a big theme of the podcast for the last few months, which is we can't control the outer world. There are more things in the outer world that we can't control. It's most of it. We can control what we do or what we think but that's pretty much it. We don't have control over what people do outside of ourselves. We don't have control over politics. We don't have control, not that we can influence all these things. We have influence over people in our lives and politics and the state of the planet and all these things. We have influence over it but we don't control it.
And when we resist reality, that's when we create emotional pain for ourselves. I do want to acknowledge, by the way, that underneath that post, that I just read you the quotes and if you want to see that, you can go to the Miracle Morning Community Facebook Group, click on announcements at the top and scroll down just a few and you'll find that post and there's 68 comments underneath it. Most people, the comments were everything from, “Thank you. I needed to hear that today,” to one woman wrote, “I needed that right now. My sister recently passed away.” And I have been spending a lot of time thinking of all the things I could have done differently. The timing of this message is no coincidence. So, I share that with you for a sec. By the way, think about that. We have two different people here that had two very different interpretations and uses for that quote and that post that I put up, right? Both of them have lost loved ones. In fact, both of them had talked about losing their sister. And one of them is seeing that, "Wow. Okay. Yeah, I was resisting my reality. It's time to accept it and be at peace with it,” and the other person was going, “I can't get there to the point where I need to accept or that I can accept my reality. My reality is painful. It is painful.”
So, I want to address Aaron's comment. I want to go deeper into this concept around how our emotional pain is self-created or suffering is self-created. I want to also address the benefit of emotional pain, by the way, and the benefit of suffering, and why it might actually be exactly what you need right now and at different times in your life because that's one thing I did not address in the post that I should go back and edit it but that's really important. It's not this idea that it's black and white that it's like positive, feel good emotions are good and right and positive and any painful emotions are negative and you should avoid them at all costs. Absolutely not. I think sometimes when I post it, it might come off that way. And so, today I really want to address that as well, the idea that there is purpose to all of our emotions, and there are some times when you may want to dwell in a painful emotional state.
But here's where I want to help you get to and this has been part of my keynote speech for 20 years is this message, is what I want you to get to or where I'm hoping you can get to or if you want to get there, of course, no pressure but if you want to get there, what I'm offering is for you to get to a place where you are in control of your inner world, of your mental and emotional state most of the time, like 95% of the time. And the reason I say it's not 100% of the time is, as a human being when something happens, you will react, right? It's very normal to have a reaction. When you get some terrible news, you're going to have an emotional reaction and you should. You should have those feelings. Those feelings are there to teach you a lesson. There is truth in that that you should be paying attention to. You shouldn't just go, “I'm going to disassociate from reality and just pretend everything's okay.” No. Where I'm going to help you get to is where you only dwell there for as long as it is beneficial for you. You only dwell in painful emotions for as long as they are beneficial for you.
For the amount of time that is needed for you to extract the value that that emotion is available to you through the emotion, through the way you're feeling, the way that you're thinking. There's value. The value might be, "Oh, wow. I really cared about this person.” The value might be, “Oh, wow, I really messed up here. I made a mistake. I'm really feeling embarrassed and angry at myself.” So, there's something for you to learn or obtain, some sort of perspective. There's value in that emotion but where you lose the value is when the emotion takes control and you're feeling out of control. You're feeling sad and you don't want to feel sad anymore, but you can't shake it. You're feeling angry and it is affecting your quality of life. And it is affecting your relationships and it is affecting your physical body, the stress that you're feeling, the anger that you're feeling. And when it's out of control, that's where the emotion becomes detrimental to you, becomes harmful.
And I'm here to tell you after 20 years of practicing this that you can get to a place where you are able to maintain a perspective on the challenges and circumstances in your life and in the world where you're able to accept them exactly as they are to not create any emotional pain unintentionally, but only if you want to feel it because you feel it will serve you. For example, if you're feeling sad or you're grieving over a loss, do that as long as you feel it serves you, but many of us and consider if there are aspects of your life where this is true, many of us, many people, millions of people are suffering to this day, suffering over things that happened in the past. In fact, most of our suffering comes over things from the past, whether it was five minutes or five days or five decades. We're suffering but it's the thought, the thought of the thing, and it's a resistant thought. “That shouldn't have happened when I was a child. I didn't deserve that. I was just a child. That person is horrible. They're horrible for doing that to me.”
It's those thoughts that resistance wishing and wanting that it didn't happen condemning it, the event, the circumstance, the person, condemning them over and over and over in our minds long after the event or the circumstances taking place. Or resisting reality as it is now, watching the news and going, "How could this happen? How could people be this stupid or how can they do this?” Resisting our reality is where all of our emotional pain comes from. And I want to give you just the most simple, basic example of this. And we saw it in real-time when I read you those two comments from members of the Miracle Morning Community that I just read a few minutes ago about one gal who lost her sister recently, but she's realizing that, "Oh, I was caught in a pattern of resistance and creating emotional pain for myself,” but this post that when she saw my post, it was perfect timing for her. She realized I need to just accept it exactly as it is and let it go. And then the other gal who says she can't accept it.
So, here's the point and you've heard me use this type of example many times because I think it gives us as a person just an immediate like reality check, which is the exact same tragedy can be full of two different people. It could be the exact same. They could have the exact same reality. Now, of course, this is kind of theoretical because, in reality, no person's experience is exactly the same but whether it's exactly the same or really, really close, let's say two people had a really quality relationship with one of their parents. Okay. So, two people had a great relationship with their dad and they both had a loving relationship. They both talked to him once a week like it was almost identical and then their dad unexpectedly passes away. Now, both of them, both people would imagine would be sad and I would say that's very healthy to grieve that loss and to feel whatever emotions come up. But the same tragedy can befall two different people.
In one person, it sends them into a deep, dark depression leading to suicide because they can't accept that their father is no longer here, and you're going to hear a real-life story about this a little bit later in the podcast. And then the other person also lost their father who they talk to once a week and had a great relationship with and instead of going down this path of darkness, they grieve in a healthy way, but they accept fully, “My dad is not here and he will never be here again. I can't change that. There's no point in wishing I could because that wishing would be futile. It would be delusional and I don't mean that in any kind of condescending or negative way. It's just literally it's deluding ourselves when we're wishing that reality were different than it is or can ever be. That's delusion.” And so, the same thing happens to different people. One person, it destroys them. One person is at peace with it. So, if you look at that and I use the loss of a father as an example. It could be anything. It could be COVID-19.
Two people are going through it. Both of them lost their job, both of them. They have almost identical circumstances as a result of the same stimuli, the same event, the same circumstance. Yet one of them, they're in fear every day and they're destroyed every day and the other person goes, "This sucks, this is terrible, but I'm not going to let this destroy my mental and emotional well-being like that's up to me. And I'm going to be at peace with what I can't change even though it's very difficult and it's very scary. I'm not going to dwell in the fear. I'm not going to dwell in the delusion of wishing and wanting that the past or the present moment were different than they are. I’m going to make peace with reality.” And you guys have heard me talk recently about one of the books I'm reading, Loving What Is by Byron Katie and that's kind of her thing is she said, “I'm a lover of reality.” She speaks about it in a very different way. She uses very different language than I use or than a lot of people that I've learned from over the years use, which I love because it's adding such a different perspective and kind of tools to my inner toolkit here, but she talks about she's a lover of reality, no matter what it is.
If someone dies, she's a lover of reality and I'll paraphrase what she says. It's something along the lines of she's found that when she argues with reality, she loses but only every single time. When she argues with reality, when she resists reality, when she wishes it were different, she loses every single time because reality is as it is, and you either can be at peace with it or as Byron Katie says, “You can love it. You can love it.” Or you can choose something else. You can choose to resist it and resent it, to be angry about it, about the way things are in the world. And you have to realize that that doesn't change the world. That doesn't change. It’s what we lost. Our inner turmoil doesn't improve our outer world yet without this awareness, we cling to it. So, let me look back at my notes. I haven't looked at my notes for about 15 minutes. I had some notes so I want to make sure I cover everything here. So, addressing Aaron's comment, so I'll read her comment one more time.
“I can't say I agree with every painful emotion is self-created. I think of losing my father and sister whom I love dearly, and the pain I felt and still feel. That pain is a result of my reality that I'll never see these two humans who I love again. That was and still is the thing that I'm sad about. Maybe I'm misunderstanding Hal’s message.” So, in Aaron, if you're listening to this, my heart does go out to you and I just don't want anything I say to discount the pain you've experienced and how significant your loss is. And that goes for all of you. Yeah. I just don't want you to think that your suffering is wrong in any way because it's not. Again, that goes back to your reality. We'll talk more about that in a second about how pain is not the most painful part of pain. It's actually our resistance to pain that amplifies our pain. Again, I'm going to get to that in a few minutes. So, here's what I want to share. I want to share a story with you. I gave a speech. Oh, gosh, I don't know what year it was. It was over 10 years ago, probably. And I spoke at a company conference.
It was a conference for a company and there was a gal in the audience who was 27 years old at the time and I shared this story or this philosophy I talked about. It was in the context of sharing my car accident story and how I decided to accept and be at peace with the worst-case scenario, which for me at that time was that I would never walk again. I decided if I never walk again, I'll be the happiest person that anyone can ever see in a wheelchair because I will not let my wheelchair aka my circumstances, wheelchair is for you, whatever your wheelchair is, it's your circumstances. I will not let my circumstances, my outer circumstances determine my quality of life, my inner world, my emotional well-being. That was a decision I made. So, I said even if the worst-case scenario comes to pass, I will be the happiest, the most grateful that you could ever be in the midst of that difficult circumstance. So, I shared this story of course from stage and I shared how all of our emotions are self-created.
And I got an email from this gal probably a week or two later and I'm paraphrasing what she said. She said, “Hal, when I first heard you tell me that my emotional pain is self-created,” and by the way, if you're listening right now, you might have had a similar reaction to this if you're in the midst of pain or you've experienced really intense pain, especially over death or loss, something along those lines. She said, “I felt myself getting angry at you when you basically told me that my pain was my fault,” because her father had committed suicide 10 years prior. I forgot to mention that pivotal part of the story. Her father had committed suicide when she was 17 years old and she said, "My dad committed suicide and I've spent the last 10 years deeply depressed and I've been in and out of therapy and counseling, seeing psychiatrists. I've been on depression medications, every different antidepressant you can imagine. They would just switch it up every few months or six months or a year or whatever.” And she said, "Nothing worked. Nothing worked. And the thought of my dad causes me so much pain.”
And she said, “I got one of your little Can't Change It wristbands.” I used to have these wristbands that I gave out when I spoke at events and high schools and colleges especially. She said, “I got your Can't Change It wristband, and because I started to think that maybe my emotional suffering, my depression wasn't because my dad died. It was no one ever told me that I could accept that and be at peace with that. I didn't know that that was an option. In fact, everyone I shared my dad's death with including…” she said therapists would always reaffirm her feelings which is, “You poor thing. I can't imagine how you feel. I would feel the same way,” and it just really reinforced that, yeah, she should be depressed and sad and that's how she feels and that is normal and all of those things. So, she said that she wore that Can't Change It wristband and every time she felt those feelings of her dad which was daily pain, 10 years of daily pain and suffering over the death of her father, and she said she would look at the wristband and she would take a deep breath and go, "Can't change it. Can't change it.”
And then one of the suggestions I made in my speech was to if you have a painful emotion or memory, I said, "Choose to ask yourself what is beneficial about that thing that caused you pain?” and you might have trouble finding something beneficial. You go, “There's nothing beneficial about it. It was a horrible thing.” And I said, "But if you really look and you're really honest and quiet, you can find something because even it was a horrible thing maybe you learn to never let someone hurt you like that again or you will learn how much someone meant to you when you lost that person or you learned how deeply you could love, when you lost love.” And so, there's always a benefit. There's always a benefit. There's always an advantage in every adversity. And so, she said she decided that she would replace the sadness that she felt from the memory of her dad with gratitude that she was here because of him and that would never change. And she thought about all the positive things about her dad and that she will carry with her forever.
And she said she changed that memory of pain and sadness and depression and despair to a memory of love and gratitude. And her email essentially said that she was no longer depressed and that 10 years of depression, nothing worked. And these three words, "Can't change it,” and this philosophy that this empowerment that you can choose consciously to accept your life exactly as it is. You can be like Byron Katie and be a lover of reality. Love your life exactly as it is. These last few days or the last week, I think I mentioned this on the last podcast, I had Nick Conedera stay with me who is the director of the Miracle Morning Movie, which by the way, I'm so excited. It is coming along. I'm so excited. But anyway, he put a scene in the movie of me at my lowest point in the hospital. And this is a video that I don't think I ever made public. In fact, I recorded it not knowing if I would make it public, but I recorded it because I was in tears. I had been on like 11 days of pain management. It was the most painful, mentally, emotionally physically painful experience in my life.
And Nick pulled the footage out that I had sent him in private and said, "Don't share this with anyone. I don't know if I would ever share this with anyone.” Well, you're going to see it. It's in the movie, but it's me and my hospital bed with a rag over my head. I'm sweating, I'm crying, and I'm talking about how it's the most difficult, painful experience of my life. And then what's crazy and I don't even remember this footage until I saw it in the film is I talked about it, I say, "This doesn't change anything about the way I view this cancer,” and I'm crying as I say this. I'm in pain as I say this. I say, “I still am so grateful for this cancer and for who it is, it is enabling me to become and who it will enable me to become and the impact that I will have on other people indefinitely because of this pain that I am enduring right now so I'm grateful for every moment.” And I share that with you because when I saw it, I was so grateful that we have it in the film. I thought, "Wow.” It's one thing for me to be all happy and go, "Guys, you can be happy and you could be grateful even in the midst of your challenges,” and you're like, "Yeah, that's really easy for you to say, Hal. You sound like you're all happy and excited and energized, but I'm not feeling that way right now.”
And so, I'm so happy that we've found this footage. I'm so grateful about that because you're going to see that, damn, you're going to see I am in major pain and still talking about how I am so grateful for this pain. And pain takes on a different meaning in your life when you're grateful for it, when you stop resisting it, when you are at peace with it. Now, I'm going to talk about how to do that in a few minutes but I want to address very quickly the benefits of emotional pain and suffering and why it may be exactly what you need. Number one, to be clear, there is a purpose for emotional pain. There's a purpose. And I mentioned that a few minutes ago, a little bit ago, that we can learn something from everything. And when you experience emotional pain, asking yourself, "What can I learn from this? How can I benefit from this?” or physical pain, any kind of pain. The second thing is to realize and I touched on this earlier, but it's not the pain that causes suffering. Pain is inevitable. In life, pain is inevitable both physical, mental, and emotional, all of those, but suffering, you might have heard is optional.
So, it's not the pain that causes the suffering in the same way that resisting our reality causes the pain, resisting our pain causes the suffering. So, think about it. If you're experiencing pain and you go, “I hate the way this feels like why am I so upset? Why can't I feel better?” All of that is resistance. I'm resisting my reality. I'm wishing that it were different. But the moment that you go, "Man, I am in so much pain right now but I can't change it and this sucks. It hurts but I'm at peace with it. I accept it exactly as it is because I can't change it. This is my reality. I'm going to love every moment of my reality, even when it hurts.” Now, I know for some of you may be like, “What are you? That's crazy. What are you talking about?” Try it. If you study Buddhism, it's one of the foundational tenets of Buddhism is to accept reality exactly as it is. I didn't know that when I was 20 and I started kind of living this with the car accident and then I started reading books and I'm like, “Oh, that's why I was able to do that.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, he says every painful emotion is caused by our resistance of our reality. I don't know if he said that. That’s the way I phrased it. I don't know exactly how he says it. It's the non-acceptance of reality as it is, something along those lines. Instead, you can choose to accept the pain and be at peace with it instead of resisting it. I guess I did already address this earlier, right? The idea that pain, there's value to it, but only to the point where you are experiencing value where you're consciously and intentionally choosing to experience pain or allowing yourself to experience pain because it is serving you. But at the moment that it is no longer serving you is the moment that I encourage you to say three very powerful words, "Can't change it.” Can't change it, and that's an acknowledgment. Okay. I felt it. I felt the pain fully. I've grieved. Maybe I even suffered a little but now it's time to live my life. Now, it's time to accept reality exactly as it is to give myself the gift of peace, to be at peace with reality. Maybe you're not ready to love reality yet like Byron Katie says, but it starts with being at peace with reality.
And by the way, let me make one important distinction for you to share this. Being at peace with your reality doesn't mean you're happy about it, and this is a very important distinction. Being at peace with reality doesn't mean you're happy about it. And here's what I mean, if you lose a loved one or you lose a job or you're sitting in traffic, well, you might not be happy about that but consider this. Imagine, I'm holding two hands up. My right hand on this side on the right side is everything that you have to feel good about and on the left side is everything that you have to feel bad about, everything that you don't want that was painful that you would have never asked for that didn't meet your expectations, past, present, and future. So, on one side is all of the positive emotions you could say, and on one side is all of the painful emotions. Well, if you imagine both of my hands in the air and if you are not driving right now, you can do this too. Put your right hand in on one side of your head like six inches away or eight inches away, and the left hand on the other and kind of move your right hand in a little circle and say, “Alright, this is all of the positive, productive, proactive emotions.” And then on the left hand, move it around a little, say this is all the painful emotions.
And in between the positive and the painful and if you put your right hand in the middle with your palm facing the left, and you put your left hand in the middle with your palm facing the right, your hands should meet in prayer position. And it's in between these two emotional spectrums of positive and painful that you find peace and it's through the power of acceptance, the acceptance, which is the opposite of resistance. If resisting reality creates emotional pain then accepting reality creates emotional peace and acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to emotional freedom. And so again, you got that right hand up in the air. That's all the positive emotions. That left hand up in the air is all the painful emotions. You bring them together at heart center in prayer position and you find that through acceptance, you can be at peace. And peace is not an emotional state unlike the positive and the painful. It's not an emotional state. It is a state of being and it is ever-present. That's why it's actually much more powerful than an emotional state because you can be happy one minute and a phone call changes all of that. Or you can be sad and depressed one minute and a phone call changes all of that. You just won the lottery. Your daughter just got married or engaged, whatever, right?
So, our emotions are fleeting and consider that learning how to live in a state of unconditional acceptance and thus unlock the door to a state of unconditional peace allows you to live where life's really meant to be lived, which is right in the middle. And from that place, you then have a clear mind, body, and spirit to choose what emotion would best serve you at any given moment. Picture a monk meditating or anybody meditating. It could be a CEO or a mom or a dad or whatever. Just picture someone meditating. Are they typically emotionally charged one way or the other? No. They're just at peace. They're just at peace. Buddhist monks that meditate for 12 hours a day or 16 hours a day, they're not meditating all excited and happy and usually not. Now, by the way, I will say this. I will sometimes meditate for that express purpose. I will, in fact, often I'll choose an emotion such as love or gratitude. It's funny, I'm smiling right now because that's what happens. As I’m meditating on this emotion, I'll usually have a real kind of gentle smile on my face.
And I’ll meditate for however long, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour on feeling these positive emotions for the purpose of training myself, conditioning myself to feel those positive emotions. That's what meditation is. It's training for your mind, training for your spirit, for your heart. It’s that training. It's like weightlifting so that you're stronger throughout the day. You're not weightlifting just so you're stronger while you're weightlifting. You’re weightlifting to be stronger for the rest of your life, I mean outside of the weightlifting, and meditation is similar. You're not meditating just so you can be at peace during meditation. You're meditating so that you can be at peace during your life. Every moment of everyday meditation is that training. As you know, Julianna Raye, one of my meditation gurus, instructors, mentors, I should say, a meditation mentor, she talks about the power of equanimity and concentration power. And what's the third one? I'm drawing a blank right now, equanimity, concentration, power, and I'm drawing a blank on the third one. We have to have Julianna back on the show. You can find her in the archives of the podcast by the way.
But the point is you're training that in the morning so that you have it throughout the day. So, I will also train, pause. I like feeling good. I don't know about you but I like to feel good. I like to feel somewhere in the range between at peace and really happy and excited. I like to live in that space 95% of the time or probably 99% of the time, and then somewhere between 1% to 5% of the time and, of course, I can't actually quantify this, I don't think, but you get the idea. 95% of the time I like to live between at peace and some form of positive, emotional state, happy, joyful, grateful, etcetera. And then 1% to 5% of the time, I like to experience emotional pain so that I can learn and that I can grow from that pain, from that experience. Because again, every emotion is here to serve us if we choose to see it that way but it's a very big difference between allowing being at the mercy of your emotions, which is really being at the mercy of circumstances and events outside of yourself and then allowing your internal state to be at the mercy of your outer world.
There's a big difference between that way of living and the way of living where you accept life exactly as it is at all times 24/7 so that when something in your life goes “wrong”, it doesn't meet an expectation, you suffer a loss, you suffer some form of pain, you're able to just take a deep breath, acknowledge those three powerful words, can't change it, and then just let it move through you. Just be at peace with it. Just separate it from you. So, that's the problem is when we're at the effect of the things outside of us then we tend to feel like we just we lose control of our emotional state, of our inner world. Let me go back to the notes here. See what else I wanted to talk to you all about. I want to address why a few different reasons why we have trouble accepting reality as it is and some of these might come up for you. So, I'm going to give you three reasons that came up as I was prepping for today. Three reasons that we have trouble accepting reality as it is. Number one, we didn't know that was an option. We didn't know that was an option, right? No one taught us. Why aren't they teaching us? Why aren't they teaching this to kids in school?
In fact, I started reading a book this morning called The Happiness Equation, which is so good. I'm only one chapter in but it's been recommended so many times I finally picked it up. Neil Pasricha wrote the book. The Happiness Equation, you can check that out. I'll probably talk about it more as I keep reading it here. Today was my first day reading it, but where was I going with that? So, I said, why we have trouble accepting reality as it is. We didn't know that was an option. I don't know what that had to do with The Happiness Equation, but I'm glad I mentioned that book but the gal that I told you about earlier, the 27-year-old who told me that she had been depressed for 10 years because her dad committed suicide, she told me in her email that she didn't know it was an option, that she could accept that and be at peace with that. And as soon as she accepted it, now let me make a very important point here, as soon as she accepted it, she begins to find peace within herself. She began to find peace within herself but it wasn't instantaneous because we have pathways in our brain that are conditioned the way we've thought for 10 years. You can't just override that by snapping your fingers, by saying an affirmation.
If a thought or an event or a stimulus or a circumstance has caused you a certain emotional reaction for a long period of time, you've got to recondition that. If traffic has caused you stress for 10 years, well, when you hit traffic and you start to find yourself that emotional response comes up and you go, “Argh, I'm so mad. Why are these cars going so slow?” and then you remember those three words that I thought you, can't change it, and you go, “Oh, wait a minute. Wait, maybe I can apply this what Hal was saying right now. I can't change that the cars are going slow and I can't change that there's traffic and I can't change that I'm going to be late. What if I just accepted it exactly as it is? What if I just enjoyed the ride instead of being frustrated for the next 20 minutes that I'm in this car? Huh, I didn't know that was an option until I just learned about it. I didn't know it was an option.” But then once you're aware it's an option and you start to consciously apply acceptance to the things that you can't change, you start to accept reality exactly as it is, to be at peace with it. You make that conscious choice, just like the gal did when she realized, "Oh, I've suffered for 10 years. Maybe that's because I didn't know that I had another choice. Maybe that's because I was blaming…”
Think about this, when you blame something outside of yourself for your emotional state, you render yourself powerless. I'm going to say that again. When you blame something outside of yourself for your emotional state, sorry, I'm typing this as I'm talking to you, for your emotional state, you render yourself powerless. Think about that. “It's not my fault I feel this way. I feel this way because I lost my father.” Well, then, unless your father comes back to life, you have no power from that paradigm that you're living in. You have no power to feel better because it's not your fault. It's not your responsibility. It's because of the thing that happened or because of the thing that lost and we always have a finger to point. Of course, I'm angry. It's her fault that I'm angry. It's his fault that I'm upset. You know, the fact that I lost something really important to me that I'm sad and, yes, it's true. All those emotions are fine to feel but not forever, not indefinitely. For me, I live by what I call the five-minute rule which says it's okay when something painful happens to experience pain, but for me not for more than five minutes and the number’s arbitrary, by the way, like I don't want you to go, “Hal, that's so insensitive. Five minutes like I lost a loved one.” Okay. Yeah. Grieve for as long as you need.
But I've gotten to a point where I've decided I don't want to dwell in emotion that I feel like not only caused me mental and emotional pain but are actually physically harmful, stress. And especially right now with this whole COVID-19, stress is terrible for our immune system. So, dwelling in emotions that cause you stress and suffering probably is not productive right now or maybe ever. So, what I'm sharing with you learning this is not only good for you mentally and emotionally. It's actually very good for you physically and enabling you to boost your immune system. And by the way, I do believe I don't have any graph to show you but I think there's a correlation between how my body has always been able to heal itself in ways that doctors didn't understand or didn't expect. So, when I was told I would never walk again and then two weeks later, the doctors came in with routine x-rays, and they said, “We don't know how to explain this, Hal, but your body is healing so quickly. We're going to let you take your first step tomorrow.” I go, "You guys told me like a week ago, I was never going to walk again.” They're like, "Yeah, we don't know how to explain it.”
Well, think of it. I accepted my reality exactly as it was. There was no fear in my psyche or in my body around my circumstances or my future around never walking. There was no fear. I was accepting my life exactly as it was, past, present, and future. I had already accepted the worst-case scenario before it even could have come to pass and therefore, I was at peace. And the body I'm telling you, again, I'm not a scientist. I don't have an MD after, but I've lived this stuff. The body likes you at peace. It doesn't like you in a stressed state. I think that's a quick Google search if you don't believe me that stress is not good for your immune system. Then when I had cancer three years ago, diagnosed with cancer, the day I was diagnosed, I told my wife, “I will be the happiest and the most grateful person that I've ever been while I go through this cancer,” and I was at peace with it. Was there pain? Absolutely. Was there suffering? No. I mean, maybe a little bit. I mean maybe a little, but not much. Eight months I was in the hospital. I probably suffered a total of, a day, if I were to combine all the times I suffered here for 20 minutes and here for 30 minutes and here I was afraid.
Because I still had all those thoughts and fears of what if I die? Like, if I die, I've got a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son that are going to grow up without a dad and I'm picturing my daughter, Sophie, and my son and I would picture like me in a casket. I mean, those thoughts, of course, I'm human. I'm like those thoughts came up and I would acknowledge them and ask myself, “Hmm, what should I learn from that?” And one thing that I learned from that was to get my affairs in order, right, get my affairs in order so that if the worst-case scenario happens, that my wife and my kids would be taken care of. That was one thing that I did. So, that was one example of how pain benefited me. The pain, the fear of leaving my kids without a dad and my wife without a husband got me to take action to make the best of that situation if it ever came to pass.
So, the first reason we have trouble accepting reality as it is, is we didn't know that was an option. And now that you know it's an option, start practicing it on small things, start practicing it on or big things, whatever is going on in your life but the traffic example is one of my favorite because we can practice that immediately, right? You get in your car, hit traffic, and instead of being upset about it, go, “Hey, I'm in traffic either way. I can either enjoy the ride or I can be frustrated and stressed out.” You can be stressed out or you can be blissed out in life, in traffic, with every part of life. In the pandemic, you can be stressed out or you can be blissed out. I was stressed out for the last year going through this depression and anxiety I've talked a lot about and now I'm choosing to be blissed out. I'm choosing to be blissed out. I'm choosing to be and whenever I hear for myself feeling stressed, I go, “Wait a minute. Life's perfect. Life's perfect.” Now you guys are like, "Well, Hal, your life’s perfect.”
No, my life's not perfect. I could go on and on about all the challenges that I'm facing right now. I mean, there's a lot of challenges. I'm not trying to compare anything, but the point is life is perfect is a perspective that I chose a long time ago that no matter what and that that's being a lover of reality. That's being a lover of reality is that, you know what, I'm in pain right now, I'm in debt right now, I have cancer right now, I lost my job right now I have to wear a mask right now, there's a pandemic right now, and life is perfect. Life is perfect. All the things that we think are “bad” this horrible thing happened. I mean, think about how many things in your life this horrible thing happened but then in the future, it ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to you. Anything that we lose, I lost my job and it was the worst day. I'm depressed. What am I going to do? And then all of a sudden, three months later, you find your dream job and you go, “Oh, thank God. I lost that other job. I never would have ended up where I am now.”
But why not live life where you don't wait for the future to see the power, the beauty, the perfection in the present moment. Instead, you just live that way. You know what, man this thing happened. It's rough. Not exactly sure what the future holds but I'm not going to live in fear. I'm going to live with faith. I'm not going to see this as a problem. I'm going to see it as an opportunity. I'm going to see the perfection in every moment in every experience good or bad, difficult, painful, or otherwise. This is how you master the inner gain, where nothing that happens outside of you can shake your inner world. Nothing. Nothing. Did I say nothing? Yeah. Nothing. I mean speaking in absolute. Absolutely. But again, I want to circle back. If I lost one of my children, would it be horrible? I don't even like to say that, right, but I want them to understand I would be in so much pain for as long as I needed to be at pain. But I would also nurture that pain with love and nurture that pain with acceptance so that it didn't feel out of control.
I'd be very mindful and I would continue my practices of meditation and affirmations. If I lost someone I loved, which of course, I've lost many people I love in my life. So, I just want to make sure that you understand I'm not saying that you're just invincible from no matter what happens, you're not going to shed a tear. No, there are lots of tears to be shed in life and we have a lot of things in our future I'm sure where we need to shed some tears. We need to feel the emotions that come up for us but you can also accept those emotions exactly as they are. And one other example I want to share with you is from Viktor Frankl. So, if up until this point, you're like, “Hal, you don't know my situation like yeah, you don't know my situation. You don't know what I'm going through. I can't just accept it,” Viktor Frankl who I've quoted many times, and I'll quote many times before, Viktor Frankl wrote the book Man's Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was in a concentration camp and I believe he was 31. Don't quote me on that. That was the age of my drunk driver. Maybe I'm confusing those.
Anyway, well, Viktor Frankl had a, I believe, it was a wife and a child back at home and he was captured by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. And he describes in his book, Man's Search for Meaning that he saw people, you know, his friends were being tortured and killed and starved and, I mean, it was horrific circumstances. I would imagine if you have the means to listen to this podcast, that for most of us, we're not experiencing anything close to Viktor Frankl where you're in a concentration camp waiting to die. Think about that. He literally was just waiting for his turn to be killed. And he decided, and I'm paraphrasing, I haven't read the book in a long time. Actually, I will share the quote from Viktor Frankl. “The last of man's freedom is to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances.” I'll say that again. The last of man's freedom is to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances. So, Viktor Frankl decided, “I don't know how much time I have left on this earth. Looks like not very much. So, I might as well,” and again, I'm paraphrasing, but he said, “I might as well be happy. I might as well enjoy every moment of my life for the limited amount of time that I have. I might as well be at peace with everything that I can't change and be grateful for everything that I have, which right now, I have breath, I have life. I can feel, I can see, I can hear, I can taste I can smell. I have life.”
And so, when I read that book, it was after my car accident, I thought, "Man, if Viktor Frankl could be happy in a Nazi concentration camp with horrible conditions thinking he was never going to see his wife and child again and watching his friends die and waiting for his day to die, and he was only in his 30s, if he could be happy in the midst of those circumstances, I would challenge you or I to come up with a circumstance that is more difficult than that.” And I share that because to me, it's just one of the best examples of it is an inner game, no matter what's going on around you, and I empathize with what's going on around you. Life can be difficult. Life can be difficult. Life can be and will be painful but I think it's a Buddhist saying that pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
And so, I would like to give you guys a few, let's just wrap this up with a few actions that you can take to kind of start implementing this stuff. So, what I've taught for years, the Five-Minute rule and the Can't Change It philosophy that kind of go together, when you find yourself upset, remember, I said that one of the reasons that people have trouble accepting reality as it is, is because they didn't know it was an option. Now that you know, it's an option, practice it and a great way to practice it is this five-minute rule where when something happens that causes you to feel upset, set your timer on your phone for five minutes. And for five minutes, give yourself the permission to bitch, moan, complain, cry, feel everything that you're feeling that's coming up inside you, feel it to the fullest. Think of it as kind of a release. Like I'm letting it all go. I’m feeling it. I'm crying, I'm screaming, I'm yelling, I'm whatever. Feel it for five minutes. When the timer goes off, say three very powerful words, can't change it, can't change it. Take a deep breath. Say it maybe a few times. Can't change it and think about what that means. That means that you can't change the thing that you're feeling emotional pain over.
And so, if you want to continue feeling emotional pain, set your timer for a little longer and keep feeling it, that's fine. But if you realize I want to move forward, I don't want to suffer. I don't want to dwell here. I want to be proactive and do something to move on, move forward, make myself whatever it is. Can't change it reminds you that if I want to feel good, and this resistance to this thing that I just found out about is causing me pain, I'm self-creating emotional pain, then I'm going to accept it exactly as it is. I can't change it. So, the only intelligent choice I have, if I want to feel good and let go of this suffering, this resistance, the only choice I have is to accept it and be at peace with it. And at first, it might feel foreign. And by the way, that's one of the other reasons that people have trouble with this is because we've never done it before so it feels foreign. It feels foreign. And so, it's about reconditioning. When that 27-year-old gal, when she decided she was going to accept her father's death exactly as it is and replace the memory, the painful memories that his memory evoked within her, the painful emotions replaced them with gratitude and love for him and her life, it's a gradual shift, but gradual meaning like you'll be amazed at how fast this starts to happen.
Like the first time you do it, you'll set your timer for five minutes, it goes off, you're like, “I still feel upset.” But then after you do that for a few days, you'll start to just not need the full five minutes. You'll set the timer for five minutes, you'll be upset and then you'll look at your timer and go, "Oh, there's still like three-and-a-half minutes left,” and you'll set the phone down and then you'll go, "Wait a minute. Why don't I just be at peace now?” I mean, talk about elevating consciousness, this is one of the most important effective elements to elevating your consciousness so you can be free from emotional pain, free from emotions that holds you down that control you that that really hinder and even ruin your quality of life because of how much pain you're in inside, how much fear, how much sadness, how much anger with things that are out of your control. And as you start to practice this, you start to realize that ultimately you can gain control over your mental and emotional state so that you can feel whatever you want to feel on the inside, no matter what's going on, on the outside.
Hal Elrod: So, I hope this has been helpful for you. We're going to keep talking about this indefinitely. You know, I’m realizing more and more and more that changing things in our outer world is important but it pales in comparison to the importance of learning how to optimize and be in control of our inner world. So, I hope this has been valuable for you. Thank you for listening to the podcast. Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. I really, really would. If this helped you, if this impacted you in any way or if you have a question, I always read the comments below, the post on HalElrod.com/whatever the number of the podcast is. And I believe the number of this podcast, I’m stalling for time so I can see, I believe the number of this podcast will be 338. So, HalElrod.com/338 and you can leave a comment underneath or leave a review on iTunes. Either one I will appreciate. So, love you, guys and gals. Thank you so much for listening and I will catch you all next week.
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