Constructive Living

Constructive living article sfc solution focused aletheus mark hannan
 Accept your feelings, know your purpose, do what needs to be done.
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“The key is not to resist or rebel against the symptoms or to try to get around them by devising all sorts of tricks, that is, to accept them directly as they are without shunning them.”
– Takahisa Kora, MD
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Accept your feelings
Accepting feelings is not ignoring them or avoiding them, but welcoming them; Vietnamese poet and writer, Thich Nhat Hanh recommends we say, “Hello Loneliness, how are you today? Come, sit by me and I will take care of you.” Morita’s advice: “In feelings, it is best to be wealthy and generous”, ie, have many and let them fly as they wish.
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Know your purpose
Implicit in Morita’s method, and the traditional psychological principles of zen which he adapted, is an independence of thought and action, something a little alien to the western ideal to “follow our whims and moods”. Morita held that we can no more control our thoughts than we can control the weather, as both are phenomenon of most amazingly complex natural systems. And if we have no hope of controlling our emotions, we can hardly be held responsible any more than we can be held responsible for feeling hot or cold. We do, however, have complete dominion over our behaviour, and for Morita, that is a sacred responsibility. “What needs doing now?” is like a mantra in his methods.
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Do what needs doing
You can feel crushed and alone or hurt and homicidal while pulling up the weeds in your garden, but you won’t be there at all if you hadn’t intended to raise flowers. Morita’s way of treatment is very different from our western diagnosis/disease model. Morita’s methods lead his ‘students’ through experiments, and in each assignment, the lesson is not explained by a master, but learned first hand, through the doing or ‘taiken’, that knowledge gained by direct experience.
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The relation of thought to action is explored with the journal, a random sample taken three or four times each day to note our behaviours and the feelings that accompanied them. We quickly see for ourselves we are not just depressed, or shy, or alone, but all of these and more; something we all experience, but like your computer fan, something we habitually overlook. Within weeks, we see how our feelings are not “being caused by” our situation or our forgotten past, as many conflicting feelings fill the pages. Our log-book dispells any notions we may have of traditional and narrow “personality types”, and does this directly in the context of our everyday life.
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Human beings remember about 10% what they read, 20% what they hear, and 90% what they do. In CL, We grasp our lesson by practice in our own gardens, whatever our personal flowers may be. I often met my teacher in the nearby playground where my 2 year old could play while we talked; lessons can easily happen over shopping or apartment hunting. A friend of mine was asked on his first meeting, “What would you do first if you were cured today?” and they went straight out to do it. For Morita’s purposes, in his words, “Effort -is- the good fortune”“Each time you feel shy, it is a new shyness”Our brains change, by some accounts 50 to 60 times per second, and each is a new change, a new configuration … by western pattern-personality standards, it is physiologically a new ‘you’ never seen before. Each moment is a new branch point, a new start exploding with possibilities toward the next new you. We know now our brains do what they do not by the count of cells, but by the connections rewritten on each new experience.“Trying to subdue a wave by striking it only results in a thousand waves”

Kipling’s line on wanting the wisdom to know what can be changed from what cannot echos through the “quiet therapies”. Many exercises taunt us to attempt controlling the impossible. No one has yet asked me to put a camel (or rope) through the eye of a needle, but I swear it cannot be as hard as simply sitting for 20 minutes watching my mind and body!Constructive Living aims at helping a person see the world realistically and act on that knowledge in practical and constructive ways. In assessing any situation a first question that we ask is: what is controllable and what is not? If we hunt for the Constructive Living “bones,” as Santa Rosa, CA instructor Gregory Willms called the ‘essentials of this paradigm,’ a good beginning place is with the issue of controllability.
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The question of what is controllable is central to realistic thinking and action. It makes no sense to put effort into controlling what is essentially uncontrollable. And yet, this is what many of us do or try to do. Here we use the term “control” in a quite literal way. Control indicates that something is possible. . .all the time. Having control does not necessarily mean that it is easy, only that it is possible. We use the words “can” and “can’t” to reflect this meaning. “I just can’t seem to exercise lately”. She is not speaking accurately. She actually can exercise; she simply hasn’t recently.Lets look at the list of what is not controllable: the weather, other people’s actions, other people’s opinions, the outcome of events, my thoughts, my feelings, my moods. When we look realistically at life we see that a great deal of it is not directly controllable. What is controllable, then? My own behavior is always controllable. With a very few exceptions (stuttering, trembling and impotence) my behavior, that is, what I do at all times is fully within my control.
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Sometimes action is difficult. For example I notice that having the flu as I write this article makes me feel lethargic; it doesn’t, however, prevent my fingers from typing the words of this lesson. Writing is possible. It is behavior. I can do that action, even while “not in the mood.” I do it because it needs to be done.
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This can be a startling fact for many of us who have believed that “motivation” of some kind must precede action. What a relief to discover that I need not fix my feeling or my self esteem or my motivation in order to act. Realistically we know that life can’t be perpetually easy, comfortable, “exciting” all the time. As we gain maturity we accept this as reality. The “good news” is that my behavior is in my control at all times. I don’t need to wait for motivation, inspiration, or self esteem to act. I can act on what needs to be done because it fulfills a purpose. I can act now. My behavior is always controllable.
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Homework: Pick one action that needs doing on a regular basis: (flossing teeth, walking, doing dishes, changing the cat’s water,etc.) Chose a set time of the day and do the needed action at the same time each day for one week.
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More lessons and activities 
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