Let's cut right to the chase: the five givens that we all have to deal with in this world are:

1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not fair.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

But our active and aggressive egos are terrified by these facts of life and will do anything to get around them.

Tapping into his 30 years as a therapist, pastoral counselor, and self-help author (How to Be an Adult in Relationships), David Richo urges us to see that these givens must be embraced gratefully and used to draw out the best in us. For example, although everything changes and ends, renewal and resurrection are always surprising us with new possibilities. Instead of letting pain defeat us, we can use it to develop courage and compassion for the suffering of others.

Richo hits the mark with his commentary on the ego's continual campaigns to control others. He suggests a relentless spiritual campaign against this behavior using the five A's — acceptance, attention, appreciation, affection and allowing. He describes a spiritual practice for use in any predicament: Hold both hands out, cupped, palms upward, and imagine them holding two opposites. Feel the light and equal weight of both, since your hands are empty. Then say, for example, "I can serenely hold both my need for relationship and my not having one right now."

We also loved Richo's characterization of the imperial ego's encrustations as FACE — Fear, Anger, Control, Entitlement. No wonder he defines enlightenment as "lightening ourselves of the heavy wardrobe of ego." These ideas and spiritual practices are gateways to contentment.