Over the weekend I had the amazing fortune of spending extended periods of time with a group of people who had somewhat dissimilar backgrounds and traditions than I am accustomed to.  Sharing this  time with people who are different than I am, reminds me of the illumination that can also come with exposure to new places I have never been.  Both of these activities are powerful ways to be reminded that we are small and the world is big.  This perspective is humbling and also interesting as I learn about alternative ways of living.

One of the first things I noticed in this group of 100-ish people was that they were Joyful.  I’m not saying their lives were perfect.  Far from it.  I am saying that there was a jovial energy of love that permeated the space.  There was a playfulness to the environment which seemed to significantly contrast my general experience with large groups of people who tend to bond over what is wrong rather than what is going well.

The second thing I observed was that this collection of folks was not obsessed with their physical bodies.  Nor were they obsessed with all of their ailments, of which there were plenty.  In fact, as a group, they didn’t seem to be obsessed with anything.  Without the constant over-sharing, complaining and one-upping of what was happening in each of our bodies, there was space for us to share playfulness and laughter.

The last thing that I experienced pertained to food:  When we broke bread there were no special orders, preferences or harangues about why someone ate this or that.  True, there were some serious food allergies but they were addressed behind the scenes.  We sat in small groups and chatted without any talk of the food itself.  We were hungry and grateful.  No one was complaining about how full they were, or what diet they were on, or how they ate too much or wanted more.  There was literally no focus on the food itself other than appreciating the hands that had prepared it.

I love people.  I am so Blessed to have a wide circle of family and friends with whom I feel connected.  Each of them are wonderful.  But in aggregate, we are complainers.  We talk about procedures and potential diagnoses and how our bodies “feel” on a certain day, ad nauseam.

But we are not our bodies, nor are we our minds.  Body and mind are tools we employ to help us maneuver the world as we pursue whatever lives, situations and conditions we choose.  When we become obsessed with either body or mind, we build barriers to quality of our life experience.  Instead of acting as vehicles to help us serve some common good that is bigger than ourselves, our body and mind can take up all the of the oxygen in the room and keep us acting in a compulsive loop.

Talking about our pain, poor sleep, exhaustion and overall dis-pleasure of the body and mind is a language we all know.  It’s a little like talking about the weather or sports.  We can take up oodles of time talking about things that never allow our genuine insides to be exposed to those around us.  It’s as if silence, substantive conversation and even joking around are sometimes avoided like the plague.

We learn to complain early and often.  It’s just part of our culture.  As children, we learn we can stay home from if we are sick.  As we evolve into adulthood, this becomes a reason to stay home from work or canceling an engagement we didn’t actually want to be part of.  It’s as if we think some sympathy might be garnered if we have the worst thing at the table, never taking into account the wounds and conditions of others.

This post is not about being genuinely sick, and tapping out as we recover.  Personally, I have experienced various chronic diseases nearly my entire adult life.  When we have colitis, or a seizure or long Covid, these conditions are real.  We need to pay attention to what our body is telling us and maybe even act.

But complaining is optional.

In this country, we have a health care system that we fund with our aggregate failing health predicaments.  Our population is the fiscal driver for the “health care” system which detrimentally relies on our overall un-wellness.  There is nothing wrong with having an awareness that things in our physical bodies or minds are off kilter.  It’s just that for us, being “off kilter” seems to be the norm, and not the exception.  And we like to talk about it.

It is not necessary to judge or shame ourselves or others who comment extensively about their physical and/or mental challenges.  It is just a call to action for each of us to 1). Gain awareness that this is an unnecessary behavior that is unproductive and 2). Learn and engage in strategies to help us shift our focus from bodies and minds (including our opinions, beliefs and individual dogmas) to the things that really matter to us like the love in our lives, possibilities that remain, dreams we have yet to fulfill and goals we are pursuing.


See if you can increase your awareness of this dynamic by truly paying attention to what people around you are talking about.  The language and culture of complaining can be observed at meals, at work events, and social/family gatherings.   As you learn to notice the complaining nature of others, you can become more attuned to your own complaints.

When our own tendencies to complain arise, we can learn to keep things to ourselves, unless our physical experience of life is such that an intervention is truly needed, which also happens.  I am not suggesting that we suffer silently if we need medical or psychological help.  We need to be our own best advocates and seek the healing and support we need with any given condition.

What I am suggesting, is that not all complaints need to happen out loud.  See if you can go through even this one day without complaining about something.  Notice your tendency to comment on how your expectations of a situation fell short, or how you would have done something differently or why the result was unsatisfactory.

Then catch yourself. 

See if you can pause between your inclination to complain, and actually doing it.  If possible, replace those complaints with positivity about what is happening in your life.  There is always something to be grateful for.  At a minimum if we are alive, we can just say we are lucky to be here today (and say “Thank You”). When inquiring about others (aka by asking “How are you?”) Notice how much of the response is in the form of complaints, then try to shift the conversation from any negativity that may arise, to instead point out a beautiful flower on the table, a powerful book or other story that moved you.

If you need some positive conversation material to get started just hop on social media.  It’s true that social media is packed full of vitriol and ways to be unkind to ourselves and others.  But it is also a place where we can enjoy stunning Worldly images of places we haven’t yet been, miracles we have not yet seen, and accountings of heroism, love, care and compassion.  Your search, your results.

When we need help to get ourselves back on track, we should not hesitate to seek professional and moral support.  And there is nothing wrong with running your condition by a trusted advisor, to obtain assistance in deciding what the next best step is.

But so often, our very conditions are the result of our own actions.  Are we truly victims of bad health if we were born into healthy bodies and corrupted them with our lifestyles?  Should we complain about our weight or our glucose levels over a basket of bread, a soda and a plate of cheesy fries?

When the complaints are just filling space, they are not productive.  They are barriers.  They keep us from showing up as our true selves and reduce us to a physical pile of whatever we have eaten over the course of our lives.  We are NOT that.  We are not these bodies, and not these minds.

What are we then?  Contemplating this important question is a great step toward dropping our identifications with being unwell people.  As we begin to answer it, we discover there are so many miraculous things everywhere that we could be sharing with others instead of commenting at length about our own personal experience.  Give this a try and let us know how it goes.  You may just notice that changing the energy in yourself has the power to raise the aggregate energy in the room, and maybe in the world.

PS Try not to miss the rainbows, they’re everywhere! 🌈

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