Perseverance, it’s a quality to admire in the person who won’t give up.
Sometimes it’s annoying.
The wisest know when it’s time to walk away from a losing hand of cards, or from a situation that isn’t serving them well. For some of us, letting go is an art that requires practice. Fortunately life offers plenty practice.
Yes, I’ve lost a few dollars at the poker table (it’s why I only played for coins), and I’ve stayed in bad situations longer than I should. Through the pain of experience I’ve developed a new habit of looking for lessons in advance, considering the consequences, and ultimately, giving myself permission to make the move that’s right for me – even if it means giving up or walking away.
Earlier this year I attended an extended silent meditation retreat. I’d been thinking about it for several years and it finally, finally worked in my schedule. The time was set aside and family, friends, clients, even the dog – all were in the loop and knew I’d be “off the grid” for almost two weeks.
On day one of the retreat I learned that the chant leader was tone-deaf. For me, this was like nails being drawn across a chalk board over and over again. By day two, the annoyance had moved to humor and I could laugh about it, in personal silence of course. After 10 hours of seated mediation the fact that my feet were regularly falling asleep didn’t bother me so much. Observing those around me, I learned new ways to sit. After 18 hours of seated meditation, my ankles were bruised. On day three I began to question the value of the experience for me personally, and entertained thoughts of leaving. I evaluated the consequences: I ask my clients to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones and I was about to give up on a commitment I’d made . . . what kind of example would I set if I quit, and left?
And then one of the teachers began to snore.
It made me giggle (on the inside, in silence, of course). I looked around – certain I must be in a Monty Python movie – and in that moment, I knew it was okay for me to leave. Blind allegiance to my “cause” may have been noble, but when carefully examined I discovered that to stay would be to suffer and life is simply too short to suffer unnecessarily. So I made a new commitment: to follow the flow of the morning, enjoy the remainder of the meditation time and leave quietly. In that moment I felt lighter, brighter, released and renewed.
If something isn’t serving you well, remember: you always have other options and one of them may be to give up on one that isn’t working.