Es como Es – It is as it Is

Park light

A friend of mine was about to move back to the States from Madrid when he discovered that his landlord had no intention of giving him back the 2,000 euro breakages deposit from his rented apartment.

They’d left the flat in perfect condition, but the landlord clearly hoped that since they were going to leave the country in 2 weeks, they’d have to just forget about the money.

What the landlord was doing amounted to theft, and instead of relaxing into their last few days in Spain, they had to rapidly initiate legal proceedings with a lawyer, and work out how to manage the legal process from the other side of the world.

“But you know,” said my friend over lunch, “what can you do? We’re just saying It is as it is and getting on with enjoying the rest of our time here.”

“Hey!” I said, “that’s my new favourite phrase, it is as it is!

Chus, my wise Spanish doctor-friend, had introduced this to me recently – es como es in Spanish. It is as it is – whatever happens, happens. You can’t fight reality, because it’s just reality. Shunning it, fighting it, resisting what is in any way just leads to suffering.

Yesterday the water was cut off in our building meaning the loo was blocked and unwashed dishes filled the whole kitchen. My mother-in-law was in hospital for an operation, and my wife, as well as being stressed about all that, was rightfully cross with me for not giving her a hand with something just when she’d needed it earlier on.

I promised to take our son out to lunch, then to the park, to give her some time off. She needed the space, and we really didn’t need one more bit of stress.

So on my way to pick up our son, the car broke down.

That clearly was going to mean an afternoon with tow trucks and repair workshops and calls to the insurance, and no lunch out with my son… and no space for my wife.

I left the car by the side of the road, jumped in a cab, and rushed off to get my son from school.

“If the car breaks down, the car breaks down!” said the taxi driver, “no se puede ir en contra de la vida! – you can’t go against life!”

He knew it too! Why had it taken me so many years to find this out?

Whatever happens, just happens, it is as it is, and everything else is just resistance to reality.

But,” Chus had pointed out to me when she first shared these few words of great wisdom, “that doesn’t mean you don’t care about anything anymore, you don’t just sit back and give up. You accept what happens and then make a choice about how to deal with things.” There’s our freedom, in how we choose to deal with what is.

My son and I got the taxi home for lunch. I spent the afternoon getting the car towed to the garage and dealing with the insurance, while my wife spent the rest of the day happily playing with our son. Her window of personal space had gone, but she chose to have a great time with him instead. “It doesn’t matter at all,” she told me later, “es como es! In the end I had a really happy afternoon”.

Es como es… It is as it is… I think you can apply it to anything that happens, and while the sky is still blue, and kids are still fun, and trees are still magnificent, you can always find ways to happiness.

Happiness Multiplies

May Canopy In the Park

 

I just got back from a walk to the park, to drop off a couple more books for the unemployed old guy (the Book Man) at the park entrance steps who sells them for 2 euros a go. This makes me happy for a start – the books get back into the world, my great unstuffing continues, he gets something for redistributing them, plus he gave me hearty thanks as usual.

The park was vibrantly green, the full spring trees shining in the sun – it was impossible not to smile as I walked into all that natural abundance! More happiness!

And the rose garden was so exploding with new roses that I decided to thank the two ladies that work in it all year round, tending the rose beds for this grand moment of blooming glory every May.

They were weeding and chatting, and as usual I changed my mind 3 times about saying anything as I approached them, walked past, then thought, “Hey, go on, don’t be scared!”

So I turned back, politely interrupted them, and said, “I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work, the rose garden is stunning, it gets better every year!” To which they responded with their own thank you’s and two huge smiles! More happiness for them and me!

On the way back out of the park, the Book Man pointed to his wares laid out on the wall. “Your books – Gone already!” he said, “Sold both for 8 euros!” As they were big coffee table books, he’d sold them for double the price, both books to one man.

More happiness for him, more happiness for me, and more happiness to the guy who got two beautiful photography books for a great deal!

If my morning stroll were mathematics, it might look like this:

Giving something away + beautiful walk in nature + daring to thank strangers = Happiness multiplied!

3 monks on the living room floor

3 Monks from Plum Village, before a Mindfulness Workshop

Recently, 3 monks from Plum Village came to sleep on our living room floor. We were helping them organise mindfulness workshops in Madrid, and they said, ‘don’t worry, we sleep anywhere’. We learned a lot in the week they were here!

On their first day in Madrid, a saturday, with no workshops organised they wanted to check out the city. We left home after a very long, slow breakfast, and started to walk very, very slowly across town. My son said, “this looks like walking meditation”. It felt like it too.

We crossed Madrid’s big Retiro park, stopping on the way through at the citizen vegetable patch, where Brother Patience, an expert gardener, was asked his opinion on whether or not to snap the flower heads off onions, then proceeded very, very slowly towards the Prado museum.

Deciding to return there later when entry was free, we walked very very slowly through the old city centre (stopping to check out a church for a while on the way) towards a favourite vegetarian restaurant where we had a very long, very slow lunch.

Then we went to the big Reina Sofia modern art gallery for a couple of hours, followed by another few hours in the Prado museum, and finally the slow walk home.

That’s three times more than I ever achieve on an average saturday, yet we left home late in the morning and did everything at a snail’s pace!

I usually run round like a crazy person all day, never stopping, and achieve about one thing. So big lesson number one, just what the hare and the tortoise fable tried to show us when we were young: there’s no hurry!

Though it often returns… half way around the Prado Museum part of the day, overdosing on art, I nipped out of the museum for a tea in a nearby cafe. “Quick! I’ve got about 25 minutes,” I thought, and starting rushing down a side street – then suddenly I caught myself… “Hello habit energy!” … and slowed right down to monk-pace again. “There’s no hurry, there’s no hurry,” I whispered to myself, and wandered slowly, smiling, towards the cafe.

Unstuffing: How to avoid getting more stuff in the future?

Seeing as the simplification/un-‘stuffing’ process takes so long, I’m increasingly keen not to have to go through this again and again in the future. “It’s impossible,” says my brother-in-law, “things just keep pouring into the home, you just can’t help it – clothes, gadgets, toys…”

“Yes,” replies my wife, “I went shopping the other day to get one pair of shoes for our son, and came back with 3 bags – the shoes, plus a pair of trousers and 2 shirts – 3 times what I originally went out to get!”

The solution I’ve hit upon, is two-fold:

First of all: One in, One out. If I get a new book, one has to go from the shelves, if I buy a new sketchbook, an old one has to go (“…but you have to keep all your old sketchbooks to see your artistic development” says the voice in my head that really belongs to everyone else on the planet that likes drawing…) I realise this is going to be hard.

Secondly: And More importantly… I’m going to really think carefully about buying, accepting, or in any way acquiring any new stuff! I’m going to ask the question, “do I really need this?” whenever the temptation arises to bring something new into my life – be it a book, a gadget, a hobby, a project, a dream. Will it really make me any happier than enjoying what I’ve already got?

This applies to giving other people things too, like birthday presents. If I give someone a book, I’m putting pressure on them to read and give me feedback on it! If I give them an object, they have to find somewhere to keep it! As I get rid of the overwhelming amount of stuff in my own life, I don’t want to impose stuff on others.

My wife thinks the best present is homemade food, which gives great pleasure, and then is gone – I think she may be right.

What do I actually need to be happy?

As I go through the massive simplification/un-‘stuffing’ process, lots of interesting questions have come up.

For example, what does one actually need in life to be happy?

Certainly not all that stuff. As I reduce and reduce, I’ve been thinking forward to a point where I’m left with the bare essentials. It seems to me that I really only need:

:: Family and good friends

:: Simple food and shelter (including clothing), and work to provide/keep it

:: Nature / Contact with the natural world

:: Something creative (which can be just ‘life as a work of art’)

:: The present moment

Simplification/Unstuffing Resistance

“…but you can’t get rid of …”

The hardest thing in the Unstuffing-simplification process are the voices of resistance in your head that say “What? Are you mad? You can’t get rid of…” and there you can just fill the blank.

“Deleting that novel you wrote? It might be a masterwork, surely you’ll want to revise it and have a go at publishing it one day!” No thanks! That very thought has been using up a corner of my brain for the last 5 years and I haven’t done anything about it so far!

“Are you sure you won’t use those camera lenses again one day?” I haven’t used them in 3 years, and uncle Quique has just bought a new camera and is going to love using them right now!

“Shredding old diaries? Are you mad?! You’ll want to read those when you are old/your children will love them.” No thanks! I do not want my children knowing what I got up to when I was 18! And people who never wrote diaries are perfectly happy without them.

These voices of resistance are not ours. It’s our mum, best friend, Society… listen carefully to them and you’ll soon recognise who they belong to. If it’s not me, I can ignore them, and happily get on with releasing the article/idea in question.