In today’s world, we face many challenges, from the material cost of living to the existential climate crisis. As well as the impact of these, we also meet difficulties and challenges in our personal lives, at home, at work, and in our relationships.
The story of the Saxon King Canute, who sat on his throne on a beach and tried to turn back the tide, is often misrepresented as the deluded arrogance of someone who resists the inevitable. The actual story, written in the 12th Century, sixty years after his death, paints a wiser picture. Canute ordered the tide to reverse to demonstrate to his followers that a King has no power against the greater laws of nature. Most of us learn from an early age that the universe does not revolve around us and that life does not always go the way we want it to. We develop ways of coping that become habits and patterns of reaction. There’s a quote attributed to Lao Tzu, the ancient Taoist philosopher, who said “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” This can be shortened to watch your reactions as they become habits, which determine who you are. Our main ways of reacting are to avoid or resist whatever we see as unpleasant, unwanted, or a threat in our experience. As they become habits we can become trapped in cycles of repetition.