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Let reality be real

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When I go grocery shopping I never get a cart. I restrict myself to one of my supermarket’s large baskets, which limits me to essential purchases, and ensures that whatever I do buy will fit into the two nylon bags I bring with me.

Most of the groceries I buy are particularly dense items: tofu bricks, fruit, bulk nuts, tubers and the odd condiment in a jar. I don’t buy boxed cereal, lettuce, chips, or anything else that would fill up the basket without offering much nourishment. I end up with two bags so heavy that plastic wouldn’t do. My car is a two-door, so the bags ride beside me in the passenger seat.

I rent a condo in the city’s most densely populated area and I depend on street parking, so sometimes I have to march the mega-bags a block or two to get to my door. When I do my shopping on the way home from work, I also have to carry a backpack, a suitcase-sized GPS, and a big laptop.

I load up as evenly as I can, close the door with my bum, and begin my half-kilometer farmer’s walk. Often it’s in extreme heat or cold. Eventually, straps begin to slip, my shoulders and fingers begin to burn a little, and it invariably becomes more uncomfortable the longer I have to walk. There are two doors and two steps along the way

I used to really hate this particular part of my life. In my old apartment I had a reserved parking spot so the walk was never more than fifty paces and one or two steps to climb, but it was such a worse experience than it is now. I used to dread it. It was like a final kick in the chest after working all day.

Now, it’s like water. For a while now I’ve known that the way to deal with physical discomfort is to open up to it, rather than close up to it. I used to grit my teeth and, in my mind, lean toward the moment when I can drop the bags onto my table and the discomfort is over. This does not defend against pain, but it’s what I always did and what most people seem to do.

I now see all instances of minor physical discomfort as a chance to get better at being relaxed. I relax into the discomfort, I let it hang out with me. When you first try it it’s an exhilarating experiment — to voluntarily open up to minor pain when that’s what the moment brings you, to refrain from listening to the impulse to cringe or harden. It feels like you’re walking freely in an area you thought you weren’t allowed to go.

It’s relatively easy to do with minor discomfort. Life gives you endless minor discomforts, all of them opportunities to retrain this impulse, and then when tougher things happen, the impulse is still there. Instead of cringing, you release and allow. You look right at it. Nothing else makes sense.

All needs are preferences

The present moment is the only concrete reality you will ever have to deal with. Sometimes it contains pain. We prefer that our realities don’t contain pain. But that can only ever be a preference, because ultimately we don’t have control over the present once it becomes the present. If you truly needed reality to be something other than reality, your head would explode that instant. But it doesn’t. You prefer it to be one way, but don’t need it to be. Ken Keyes Jr wrote extensively about this phenomenon — the possibility of recognizing that all your apparent needs are actually just preferences, and the peace that comes with reframing them as such.

When we convince ourselves that our preference is a need, pain turns to suffering. The mind goes into an emergency state. It shouts. It hates life. It needs the pain to stop, and often it can’t. It needs the impossible, which is for reality to be different right now than it is. Nothing good and positive can be perceived at this point except for relief from that pain, there is no possibility for relaxation or gratitude. This is a bad place to be, and you could potentially live most of your life in that state, even if it’s due to a relatively minor source of pain, such as the bodily strain of carrying heavy grocery bags.

Whatever happens, by the time pain or discomfort is happening, it is reality. The way to minimize suffering is to practice turning towards pain the same way you turn towards any other reality when it happens.

Turn towards all realities. Let them be real. Relax into all realities, as a rule. Practice this consciously with light discomforts so that you can make this your reflexive response to everything. The habit of relaxing into physical discomfort leads naturally to a habit of relaxing into mental discomfort. Once it becomes a pretty consistent habit, you start fielding more and more that way, including major physical pain, and psychological pains such as loss, uncertainty, bad moods and self-disappointment.

It amounts to insisting on patience through pain. Patience is not the same as tolerance, which is characterized by quiet resentment and tense faces, patience is the willing acceptance of an unsettled or dissonant point in time.

This practice has to start with minor discomforts: heavy grocery bags, chilly temperatures, hunger pangs. Human beings are way too reactive to get anywhere trying to respond this way to genuine trauma before they can learn not to suffer from minor things. But I believe we can reach a point where we respond to almost every emerging reality with real-time calmness, followed by a rational action in response, if one is necessary.

The end of good, bad and ugly

All of us already open up habitually to pleasant realities, and those who experiment with mindfulness know how to open up to neutral realities. When you learn to open up to unpleasant realities too, then you’re giving all realities the same treatment. Then something amazing is allowed to happen.

Your mind stops dividing incoming realities into good and bad, which has the wonderful side effect of dissolving the background fear most of us carry of bad things happening. It’s hard to explain until you’ve experienced it, but because you know you’re game for all realities, the hyper-vigilant state supplied by moment-to-moment fear isn’t a lot of use. This creates a sudden sense of physical freedom. Your body relaxes, and you’re always ready to return to that relaxed state as soon as you notice you’re reacting to something.

You’ll continue to have thoughts though, some of which can convince you again that you truly need reality to be the way you prefer. Your ability to relax into all realities comes and goes in phases, as your overall level of consciousness rises and falls LINK with the tide of circumstances in your life. I frequently have periods where I totally lose that reflex and I’m too reactive to figure it out again. That’s okay. We all have long arcs of lowered consciousness now and then, where you feel unable to be mindful about anything.

Even during the times when your mind is generally unfettered, you’ll still have wandering mental images about potential bad outcomes in the future. As a policy I recommend using these thoughts about bad scenarios as a reminder to picture what a good alternative scenario would be like, if only to remind you that you don’t yet know what the reality associated with that thought will actually be once it arrives, if it does at all. Treat sudden pessimistic thoughts like you would treat an internet troll (close the thread, leave the bait untouched, find something else to put your mind on.)

Don’t worry that you’ll lose track of desirable and undesirable, or right and wrong. Whether an event is desirable or not is still obvious, and you can still make moral assessments, if you want to, after you accept the newly emerged reality. But in the mean time you don’t get yanked around by attraction and aversion nearly so much. You still feel them, but they’re just signals rather than orders.

Relaxing into an emerging undesirable reality is as much a physical reflex as a mental one. At the first sign of cringing or clenching, you let the tension out of the face and solar plexus, the legs or wherever it gathers in you. This will become a familiar feeling and it takes less than a second once you’re used to it.

There are great practical side-effects of this habit. You no longer need to control everything, so you become less tense all around, as your body realizes there is much less out there in the world that is of absolute importance to have your way. Therefore you find fewer reasons to resent others for their behavior, because you don’t need it to be a certain way. You will still always try to get what you prefer, and you’ll be much better at it because your actions are conscious. You also begin to see your own shortcomings more clearly, because it’s harder to distract yourself with blame. You realize the state of your life is all on you. Nobody else will ever be responsible for it. Evasiveness in general seems to become less useful and less rewarding — as time goes on there is less and less out there that you don’t feel like you can simply walk through. There is a domino effect of personal growth.

The great news is that minor discomfort is everywhere. Start with grocery bags. Or a room that’s a little too warm. Whatever the moment is like, you don’t need to think of it as pain that you’re turning towards. That’s just a mental category that will lose its relevance once you’re generally responding to everything the same way. Use each chance you get.

Then when the real bombshells drop, whether you can stay composed or not, you at least have an idea of where you want to be mentally: calm, conscious, and exactly where you are.


Photo by Caden Crawford

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Garrett May 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm

I was doing yard work yesterday, and the pickaxe I was using shot a rock into my leg. It hurt, and drew a bit of blood. But my exclamations of pain were unnecessarily lengthy. They served no purpose, and there really wasn’t that much pain. More than once I’ve wondered why I even bother to say, “Ow.” It could be to attract sympathy, but I do it when nobody’s around. I think we’re just conditioned to do so.

And the example above is hardly the most minor discomfort I experience. As you point out, we experience countless minor discomforts.

Anyway, good post. I need (er, prefer) to get better at letting reality be real. I have a lot of room to grow in terms of living in the present.

David May 6, 2013 at 6:29 am

It’s hard not to say “Ow,” but I wonder why we say it at all. I guess it’s a carryover from crying about every need when we were babies.

WELineback April 28, 2014 at 10:37 pm

My understanding is that it is an evolutionary response. Being social creatures, reflexively signaling pain or fear to the group (raising alarm) benefits everyone the most.

Maia May 6, 2013 at 4:12 am

Nice post David. I have also been aware for sometime that we have to accept each moment as it is now, rather then be resistant towards it. As you say it’s harder to do sometimes than others.
When I have a feeling of discomfort or when someone or something is bugging me, or if I’m feeling bored at work, I try and remind myself that every moment is as it should be and I need to accept it, I have to stop resenting whatever is happening.
Also good point with the negative thoughts – it’s perhaps natural to start thinking of the worst case scenarios sometimes, but whenever that happens, I block it out of my mind and think about what is the outcome I want to have.
For some reason, I feel I talk more negatively when with others, but I think much less negatively when I’m on my own. I don’t know why this is, perhaps because I’m looking to make conversation so I spout out whatever comes into my head, which is more likely to be negative.

David May 6, 2013 at 6:45 am

If you have trouble doing that, try this: instead of telling yourself you need to accept it, don’t tell yourself anything, just look at the sensation of boredom, or annoyance, or however it manifests itself in your body. It’s harder to “locate” abstract pains than it is physical ones, so get practice with the physical whenever you can.

Kristine May 6, 2013 at 4:24 am

I don´t know how your post came into life simultaneously with my afternoon run yesterday. I hate running. Cause it´s painful, and I might not have the best technique. I don´t do it often, so why should this be something I excel at? Anyways, I ran for about 40 mins, and pushed through pain. Not in my legs or lungs, but cramping pain from my stomach an up my back to my neck.
For some reason I just told myself that this is just pain, it´s not finite, it´ll pass, and this pain is gonna be the second runner up here. I turned it into a competition with myself that I could actually grow a little bit from.

And sometimes I meditate and try new mantras in order not to scratch my nose or elbow or knee, that for some reason itches the moment I become immobile.

So I´m gonna take the life of a small tree branch and print this, because your ideas need (ehm..) to be on my fridge. It is such a healthy reminder. So maybe there will be no need (yeah) to correct the way my boyfriend loads the dish washer, or how he cooks, or how he ends conversations on the phone. Imagine all that brain capacity I´ll liberate from “need”.

Good post. Oh, I´m hungry..

David May 6, 2013 at 6:35 am

One thing about pain while running, although I’m sure you know — there are kinds of pain you shouldn’t push through, joint pain for example. It may be signaling that damage is being done to the body. Fatigue and burning muscles are one thing.

Sewahio:wan May 31, 2013 at 8:10 pm

You are so funny!

Jill May 6, 2013 at 5:46 am

Thank you again for a wonderful timely post –
Having been struggling with pain recently you’ve given me some more idea & principles to work with through this part of my journey.

Son May 6, 2013 at 5:48 am

I am a bit confused by this post.
Though part of it makes sense since I at times, find myself automatically adjusting to extreme weather condition or an unwanted long walk (and it helps). However, on one hand you recommend purging any negative thought that enters the mind and on the other you say that this process of first relaxing physical discomfort will lead naturally to a habit of relaxing into mental discomfort and therefore help us cope up with loss, uncertainty, bad moods and self-disappointment.
My question is, don’t all of us have a natural process of coping with these negative conditions? Some cry, some go into temporary depression and some talk it out. Must we all prepare ourselves for a real bombshell in a robotic manner?

David May 6, 2013 at 6:38 am

I did not recommend purging any negative thoughts that come up. I was talking specifically about noticing when you are envisioning pessimistic predictions about what will happen in the future, and taking them as a reminder that you do not have to indulge the impulse to imagine what you don’t want, and you can instead actively imagine what you do want. There is more about this in the post I linked from that paragraph — there’s a difference between having a thought and thinking about something.

Why is it “robotic” to learn not to be so reactive? Reactivity is much more robotic.

Marije van Wieringen May 6, 2013 at 6:07 am

Thank you for a great blog, as usual! Can I make one suggestion?
Your remark that our apparent needs are actually just preferences, reminds me of the Stoic notion that suffering is brought about by opinion. In fact, the whole first part of your blog seems quite neo-Stoic (coming from me that’s a compliment!). So I’m wondering why you recommend we stick our heads in the sand when we have a sudden pessimistic thought – what else is that but a denial of pain?
How about trying this instead: the Stoa suggest an exercise called premeditatio malorum. Instead of drugging the mind with fake happy thoughts, you go the other way and imagine the very worst (this is what your mind is trying to do anyway). Really visualize all the nastiness and disaster. Then imagine yourself being at your absolute best in that situation. What would you do, which values would you act upon, what would you have to let go, how would you make yourself proud?
This technique has been adopted by modern cognitive psychology, to calm the mind and find a sense of inner strength – no matter what happens.
I know it sounds scary, but worth a try in my experience!
All the best, Marije

David May 6, 2013 at 6:42 am

I definitely did not recommend “sticking your head in the sand.” This whole post is about doing the opposite of that. Please see my response to Son above.

Negative visualization can be helpful if you are doing it on purpose and you know how to stop. I’m talking about identifying habitual pessimistic predictions and using them as a trigger for active, optimistic visualization.

Pete May 6, 2013 at 6:47 am

Some great ‘aha’ moments in there and some good reminders. Just what I needed right now. Thanks David :)

Noli May 6, 2013 at 7:03 am

Great post. I’ve grown a whole lot from reading your work. Thank you so much.

Lizzie May 6, 2013 at 7:08 am

Your post is the perfect explanation of my mantra, “It is what it is”. Words I live by : )

cj May 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

Love this whole concept, David!!! I feel I am always getting better at accepting reality and I am a big fan of looking at matters and saying it is what it is. But as you say “You will still always try to get what you prefer, and you’ll be much better at it because your actions are conscious.”

Katie May 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

“This is water”

It brings to mind another David who talks about the perceived difficulties of daily living (grocery shopping, in fact!):


Hamlet May 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

In my profession as a physician, I see a seemingly endless stream of patients with physical discomforts ranging from minor to life-threatening. Add in varying amounts of anxiety/suffering/dukkha on the part of the patient seeking help, and do this for years, (not to mention the mindless insurance company/government bureaucracy) one can’t help feeling that this is an impossible profession.

Just last week, I re-read “Wherever You Go There You Are”, after many years, and the chapter on “Parenting as Practice” struck a nerve. I missed the significance of this chapter my first time around, but now I see a metaphor. In many analogous ways, my work is a lot like the trials of being a parent. Kabat-Zinn: “These trials are not impediments to either parenting or mindfulness practice. They ARE the practice, IF you can remember to see it this way. Otherwise, your life as a parent can become one very long and unsatisfying burden . . .”

And last night, I read your post, and your message simply super-charges the above with both additional insight and practical advice. I can go back to work and let things be real. My work is called a medical “practice,” but I don’t think it’s commonly regarded with Zen Buddhist connotations. Now I can see that a medical practice can be a form of meditation. Thanks, man.

Trish Scott May 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

What lucky “patients” you will be serving.

Trish Scott May 6, 2013 at 10:07 am

Wow David. You just nailed what I do my best to help my clients with in Wellness Coaching. Pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain is hard wired with the fight or flight response though and can be fairly intractable without fairly constant mindfulness. I love that you come on here as a regular guy who is just “getting better at being human” and saying the same things as all the great sages, for instance, Nisargadatta_M when he says, “In your fevered state, you project a past and a future and take them to be real. In fact, you know only your present moment. Why not investigate what is now, instead of questioning the imaginary past and future? Your present state is neither beginningless nor endless. It is over in a flash. Watch carefully from where it comes and where it goes. You will soon discover the timeless reality behind it.”

Thanks David. I always enjoy your take on little things that are really BIG things.

Edward May 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

The “Tao of Pooh,” was the first book that helped me fix my spilt-milk syndrome. When something crazy or bad happens people say, “Aren’t you upset?!” I answer, “What’s that gonna do?” When faced with something unpleasant you either fix it, or you don’t, or you can’t do anything about it but keep going the best way you know how.

I too do the grocery deathmarch once or twice a month–often in the blistering sun or blustering snow. Takes about 25 minutes to get home. …With double fisted nylon bags and a backpack heavy enough to break a small person’s spine. I pop in my music player and as I what goes through my mind is along the lines of, “Well, this sorta sucks. …Feels like that shoulder might be dislocating under the weight. Sweat is now dripping off my nose. Oh, well–it can’t be helped. I’ll be home soon enough. I’m gonna have those ribs for dinner as a treat. Mmmmm.. Ribs.”

Great article!

Robert G. Thilo, MD May 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm


Delightful perspective of a practice I have seen in various forms and developed my own version: Notice, Allow, Ease, Release…moment to moment. Tara Brach uses the acronym RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nonattachment. (Detailed discussions and comparisons are available.)

I need to be exposed to the possibilities of other frames of reference to enrich and transmit what works in the process to find release of suffering. Thanks again, I often use your offerings with the people I serve. This community thrives on the gifts, generosity and possibilities we share. May all beings be free!

Kenneth May 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I read “Let Reality be Real” this morning. I had two unpleasant (in my mind) meetings to attend to today, and decided to practice some of what you said in these meetings. I was fully present, attentive, not trying to escape, enduring the psychological pain when present, but pleasantly surprised that for the most part, the meetings went well, I’m still employed, and in general I got through some stuff I had been worried about. Our minds are just off to the races with worst possible case thinking if we allow them to. By just quieting my mind and just listening and being fully present, I was spared the pain of my worst possible case thinking.

Patricia May 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi David,
Great post! It helped remind me to pay attention to the tightness of the body that occurs during minor aches and pains,and not to “strain away” from it. Relaxing actually helps.
Also, may I suggest that you purchase lightweight collapsible wheels similar to what’s used for luggage, that you can keep in your car so you can pile all that stuff on it and wheel it home! : )

L. A. Howard May 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I’m going to try this. I’m tired of focusing so much on how things SHOULD be that I miss out on the potential of the way things ARE. Maybe if I’m able to assign things as preferences instead of actual needs, I’ll be able to get somewhere that’s much more healthy, emotionally and mentally.

Thanks for posting this!

Kenneth May 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

In an amazing coincidence I received this in my inbox today.

A Secret Scrolls message from Rhonda Byrne
Creator of The Secret

From The Secret Daily Teachings
Stress, worry, and anxiety simply come from projecting your thoughts into the future and imagining something bad. This is focusing on what you don’t want! If you find that your mind is projecting into the future in a negative way, focus intensely on NOW. Keep bringing yourself back to the present.

Use all of your will, and focus your mind in this very moment, because in this moment of now there is utter peace.

May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne
The Secret… bringing joy to billions

Rebecca May 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Great post David! And very timely for me too. I have spent the whole day fighting back tears because it seems like EVERYTHING is wrong and spinning out of control. Reminding myself that these are just ‘preferences’ not needs has really helped me turn back towards balance today and away from the victim mentality I was falling into. Thanks David – I really enjoy your blog

Laysa May 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Perfect, David. Funny thing I was thinking and getting to a formed opinion about this relaxed acceptance today, and some words I read in your text was exactly the same I had on my mind earlier (not exactly the same-I thought them in Portuguese…hehe). I had an excellent opportunity to test myself having a mistake done in a written tattoo I got, and I thought in a relaxed way that mistakes happen in tattoos, just happen in life – so, you see, I have a very real tattoo, hahahaha. I passed the test: Right now, I am free and real.
Please, keep writing these things, keep wondering yourself while you carry bags, buy coffee and remain mute, ok?! ;)

Kate May 7, 2013 at 12:56 am

For starters I’m going to try and “relax into the discomfort” of my period pain. Why not? After all it is completely predictable and well outside of my control.
That paragraph resonated with me; especially “It feels like you’re walking freely in an area you thought you weren’t allowed to go.”

Kobe Bryant May 7, 2013 at 5:24 am

Two quotes from Thus Spoke Zarathustra sprung to mind as I read this:

From the chapter The Spirit of Gravity: “Almost from the cradle are we presented with heavy words and values: this dowry calls itself ‘good’ and ‘evil’. For its sake are we forgiven for being alive”.

From the chapter At Noontide: “Hath not the world just now become perfect? Oh, perfect as a round golden ball!”

Nice post

John May 7, 2013 at 9:30 am

Deep article David! I recently started biking to the store when I needed only a few groceries. At first, I would hate it. It was a pain in the ass to get used to hauling stuff on my back. But it eventually got to the point where it made so much more sense to bike rather than take my car to a place that was a mile away. I’m glad I did, the little discomfort you speak of has basically become a non-factor.

Colin May 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I lost over 50 pounds in weight using this one technique. After trying different diets and variations of diets for a long time I finally realised they were all efforts to stop experiencing discomfort in the form of hunger. As soon as I faced and experienced the hunger without flinching it reduced by at least 50% and I felt in control. I then lost the weight with ease!

Edward Sanborn May 8, 2013 at 5:25 am

This is a great guideline for how to deal with the incoming. And also reminds me of the Buddhist tenants of emptiness, mindfulness. That I knew this “Let reality be real” and still have lost my way and found myself in ” The good , the bad and the ugly” is a cautionary tale. Practice, practice, practice.

bshine May 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I used to be a struggler, always railing against annoyances, complaining and fretting.

Now I just try to ride the moment, allow the mind to dance around the thoughts and feelings. People often remark on how calm I am, how I seem to enjoy things that others find, not difficult to do, but difficult to manage emotionally.

I’m in medical school and have exams this week. I walked into the exam waiting area with a couple of pens and a bottle of water, I left my notes in the car. I met a group of real stressers out in the hall and they all started griping and moaning about how calm I was about the exam. I just told them – this is medical school – you wanted this your whole life – isn’t it so great to be here? I got them to read one tiny bit of their notes and then just put them down, breathe and let the one concept they had just read percolate in their minds. I could feel the adrenaline subside.

Afterwards one of the girls told me that it had really worked – she found the exam easy (it wasn’t particularly, but she ENJOYED it).

Same with parenting. I’m a single mom of a non-sleeping 1-year-old. I used to have to rock her to sleep for two hours every night, in the dark. I used to want her to just. go. to. sleep. Thinking about the sleep as a problem to be fixed and not a wave to be surfed. Now I just relax, feel the weight of her sleepy body on me, and allow my mind to wander all over whatever material I’m studying in school, think about it, enjoy it.

It’s totally bizarre considering what I used to be like.

Kenneth May 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm

This is a summary of how I am hearing this message:

Open up to discomfort, physical or mental.
Relax into the discomfort. Don’t be tense.
Release and allow.
Look right at the discomfort. Face your issue head on.

Recognize that all your apparent needs are just preferences.
In the reality of now, some of your preferences may not be met. That’s OK. You have no requirements. Accept what is.

Turn towards the pain. Turn towards all realities.
Relax into all realities. Insist on patience and calm from yourself.
Don’t label realities as good or bad. It just is what it is.

When you have a wandering or worrying mind – choose an alternate story of how things could go. Choose a better thought.

You no longer need to control everything and anything
You don’t have to resent others, because you don’t NEED their behavior to be a certain way

The state of your life is ALL on you. You can simply walk through anything and everything.
Stay composed, relaxed, centered, present. This too shall pass.

Daniel May 12, 2013 at 6:12 am

Good article David. I definitely want to live this mantra – but sometimes its hard when emotions tend to suck you in so much that you sometimes forget all this.

Andee May 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Why does pain make you feel so impatient? I am struggling with a reality right now. Struggling with accepting a reality that is and turning towards all future realities and I can’t find any patience OR calm. I’ve been hurt. I’m driving the person that hurt me crazy and I seem unable to stop. And I’m not bad at this stuff usually. It’s very concerning. I was glad to read your piece about accepting dissonant realities, but am having an usually hard time applying it practically right now. Love the blog. :)

Jenny May 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm

You had me when you said you closed the door with your bum. You are truly a saint!

Bianca Miguel July 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Hello David, I’m a brasilian girl trying to learn english, and I used to use your blog to it, then sorry for my mistakes. The beauty is to find so much more in your texts. I Always feel great when I read your texts and the way that you open up yourself with us. I’ve been applying most of it in my life. I want to say thank you for all ideas shared in here.

Jaime Guerrero October 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

What you are talking about is toughness. When you go camping (or better backpacking), it is interesting how discomforts and inconveniences (I have to carry my lodging on my back!!) quickly get suppressed. Teaching kids to be tough (to ignore their minor injuries, for example, and resume playing) is probably the most important skills. Otherwise they end up like modern helicopter-parented kids– every tiny thing is a major catastrophe requiring adult intervention, compensatory rewards, and special treatment. Not a recipe for happiness in an imperfect world, nor for independence.

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