I have experienced more inner peace in the last few weeks than I had in a long time, potentially ever.
I noticed a tangible shift since we moved to Costa Rica three weeks ago. I stopped judging my reality and started experiencing it instead.
I don’t know how long it will last. But I thought, while I am in this season of life, I can share my experience.
So, there is a bumpy road on the 3-hour drive to watch turtles laying eggs on the beach?
No problem. This country has stunning nature because they do not interfere with it. That includes their roads.
So, there are mosquitos as I watch the stunning sunset from my balcony? I put a pareo on to protect me without wishing anything were different.
So, there is a multi-hour water and electricity outage? Hmm, so this is how it is when you live in the jungle? Cool.
It is so tempting to complain about the things we do not like in our country, job, spouse, kids, or employees.
It would be perfect if only they did not have this or that characteristic. If only there were no potholes, mosquitos or electricity outages, Costa Rica would be paradise on Earth.
We can only experience paradise on Earth when we stop judging our environment and start savoring it instead.
Reality just is. We can bang our heads against a wall as much as we want by resisting or complaining about it. But that would only hurt us.
Accepting reality does not mean being passive. We can respond.
I can cover myself up if I do not want mosquito bites. Or move to a country with no mosquitos.
But it would be pointless to spend time complaining about why mosquitos exist in the here and now. They just do.
I can do something about the situation without needing to resist it, complain about it or wish it were different. And this is freedom.
When I do not need anything external to change for me to be OK, I can be free. Because my OKness does not depend on something out of my control.
So, how can we stop resisting and complaining and start accepting and surrendering instead?
I have identified four barriers that stand in the way of us accepting reality as is. Let’s review them.
1. Assuming a victim identity
“Poor me” mentality is seductive. It provides the perfect excuse for staying in our misery. It is not our fault, after all; it is the external circumstances.
It may also create a sense of self-righteousness and superiority. We often place ourselves in a position to evaluate, criticize, and even condemn the circumstances or people around us.
We may think, “This should not be happening,” or “They shouldn’t behave this way.”
Often, we believe that we will get more attention or love if we show that we suffer.
So we keep on complaining.
Sometimes, we are victims of external circumstances out of our control. But, assuming a victim’s identity and story is a choice we make, thinking it will help.
It only costs our inner peace and happiness.
2. Attachment to a plan or outcome
As I was walking to the yoga studio yesterday, a fellow yogi told me they would be annoyed if the class was full and they could not get a spot.
If the class were full, I would go for a swim or a paddle boarding session instead. I would not give away my happiness to the capacity of a yoga class!
The wind does not break a tree that bends, and adversity cannot harm us if we are flexible and can pivot with our plans.
Also, we are unshakeable when we play to have fun and grow more than we play to win.
Basketball player Kobe Bryant said it best when he was asked in an interview whether he was a player who loved to win or a player who hated to lose. This was his answer:
‘I am neither. I play to figure things out. I play to learn something. If you play with a fear of failure or you play with the will to win, it is a weakness either way.
If you play with the fear of failing, you have the pressure on yourself to play against that fear. If you play thinking, “I wanna win, I wanna win,” then you have the fear of what happens if you don’t.
But if you find common ground in the middle, in the centre, then it doesn’t matter; you are unfazed by either.
And then you can really stay in the moment, stay connected to it, and not feel anything other than what’s in front of you.”
Both the destination and the path can turn out better than we thought. As long as we can let go of our attachments and rigidity. We can be in flow with our creativity and in harmony with our environment.
Lao Tzu, thousands of years ago, said:
“By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.”
3. Triggers & past trauma
Our past experiences, traumas, and triggers often colour our reactions to the present moment.
These psychological filters can significantly distort our perception of what is happening now.
For example, an innocent comment by someone may trigger memories of past criticism. Then, we can have a disproportionate emotional reaction.
These triggers and past traumas create resistance to accepting reality as it is. We are not just dealing with the current situation; we’re also contending with layers of emotional baggage.
4. Illusion of permanence
Imagine you go on a safari and see the animals exhibiting all sorts of weird behaviours. You are fascinated and excited to experience something so different and unexpected. You take photos and are grateful for this great adventure and growth opportunity.
What if those animals exhibiting weird behaviours are your neighbours, coworkers or family? Where is your fascination and excitement now about the richness of your experience?
It is most likely gone, replaced by frustration and resistance. One of the reasons is the illusion of permanence.
When you are on the safari, you know you will not have to live with these animals. But when considering tolerating annoying behaviour forever and ever, you get overcome by worry and resistance.
Something that would not be a big deal if we knew it was temporary becomes a huge deal if we think it will last forever.
Ignoring the inherent impermanence of life is an illusion. “This too shall pass” is a cliché for a good reason. It is true. All experiences are transient— good or bad.
So, we do not need to cause unnecessary suffering by freezing our reality into a single, unchanging snapshot. Nothing is permanent, so we might as well experience it without worrying it will always be this way.
Conclusion: The Path to Acceptance and Freedom
Since I moved to Costa Rica, I experienced more fully something that I aspired to for a while: the power of acceptance. It’s not about ignoring life’s challenges but about facing them without complaint or judgment.
The four barriers we’ve discussed—playing the victim, attachment to outcomes, triggers from past traumas, and the illusion of permanence—act as roadblocks to embracing life as it is.
Which one of them acts as the biggest roadblock for you? Awareness is half the battle.
The good news is that those barriers are not real; they are just thoughts.
Overcoming them doesn’t require a move across the world; it simply demands a shift in perspective. As Michael Neill says: “You’re never more than one thought away from a whole new experience of being alive.”
So, the next time you find yourself on a bumpy road—literal or metaphorical—remember that the jolts and bumps are a part of the landscape. They make your journey unique. They are not obstacles but features. They are opportunities to exercise your flexibility, patience, and presence.
Accepting life’s imperfections doesn’t mean we cease to act; it means we act without the weight of constant resistance. That, in essence, is true freedom—a life lived fully in the ‘what is,’ not lost in the ‘if onlys.’