The trouble with struggle is that we’re attached to it.
All around the world, people spend their lives running from and working tirelessly to avoid suffering. The First Truth of Buddhism is that all life is pain, suffering, and misery. The Second Truth is that this suffering is created by our desire for more, our selfish lusting. Various forms of Christianity say that only through Christ shall we be saved from our sins. All across the planet, we experience negativity.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said “What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” Wherever you come from, and wherever you go, you will experience pain, sadness, disappointment, anger, resentment, and many more dark emotions. This statement is not meant to bring you down, but quite the opposite. The secret behind all of our suffering? It is imagined because we naturally attach to everything. To habits, routines, rituals and regular occurrences that we feel that we “need”.
This may sound absurd, blasphemous, outrageous. In theory, it does. In reality, it is nothing but the truth. We attach to our family members. To our social circle. To our jobs, our books, or phones, our clothes, our homes, our vehicles. We get excited when people praise us when we buy a new thing when we fall in love. On the other hand, we get distraught when we fail a test when someone gets sick or leaves us when we lose our homes or job. This constant cycle is escapable if your plan is to chase the highs to avoid the lows. The answer is much simpler than that.
If you wish to avoid suffering, if you wish to escape the rat race, detach yourself from all that is around you. Doing so is different than numbing yourself from the pain through a substance or other escape. Numbing yourself has a ceiling that isn’t very high. True detachment comes only after acceptance of that which we cannot control. While suffering and excitement can never be fully eliminated, we can negotiate adequately so that they do not control our lives.
How we interpret our lives is the life we live.
All over the planet, there are people who have in essence transcended the emotions that once ruled their life. They are not special, unique, or different from you and I in any way. All they have done is recognized the dynamic of control that was placed within them from birth, saw the cycle of the possible future before them, and decided to make a change. That moment of decision, the choice you make between living your life, and allowing someone or something else to live it for you, is in your hands.
The wonderful aspect of human nature is that there is no window to make this decision. Sure, there is a build-up to get to that point, but none of us are exempt from arriving at this realization. Any person at any point in their life can decide to make the change, to take control of their situation. Sure, we cannot change the circumstances that are given to us, but we can change what we do about them. Once at this recognition of choice, there is a period of waiting, in which turmoil is sorted out, discipline is developed, and tests are given to see if this is the path you really wish to embark on.
If there is anything you take from this article, from this blog, it is that continuing down that road even when the outcome seems impossible, is the right decision to make. Nothing great ever came easy, and no life of freedom and pure enjoyment came without hard work. A friend told me today that “Nothing external in your life starts to change until you change what is inside you.” That statement resonates deeply. If you want something to change around you, change yourself.
This, of course, comes with much trial and error. For those of you who aren’t already thinking it, there is only so much change you can make when you are surrounded by people who refuse to change with you. Who you associate with, and what you spend your time looking at/reading, plays a substantial part in your growth. Those around you do not mean to inhibit your growth; they are in fact propelling you forward into something new, they just may not be aware of it. It will one day become your responsibility to guide them as their time to help others comes.
Nature is cyclical, whether we would like it to be or not.
With all of this in mind, part of the cycle of life is spending time suffering. Another part is spending time enjoying. Wherever you are in life, there comes a point where you must make the decision: to control your life and how your emotions affect it, or to let them dictate your experience. Regardless of which route you choose, there is a cycle to all of it. Rolling with the change instead of resisting it makes things much easier internally. We may lose our loved ones, our possessions, and even parts of our bodies, but rolling with change keeps our faith.
One key component in “making the right decision” is forgiveness. Yes, gratitude, respect, being patient as well as kind, and having faith in the process is all very important and necessary. Many of these have been talked about previously, or will be in the future. But forgiveness is something unique, that takes great effort to start. As with anything though, once started, it becomes easier and easier to apply moment to moment.
For a long time, I had trouble with letting go of past pains and hurtful memories. Recently, I have started practicing forgiveness meditation, adding this to my daily and nightly prayers. I cannot help or control who has wronged me, no matter how malevolent or accidental it was. What I can control is how much I let it bother me. The kicker? it is as easy as saying the words “I forgive you.” It is that simple. The more you say anything (keep this in mind) the more real it becomes. Whether it be a parent, school bully, romantic partner, or the
jerk guy who cut you off in traffic, all can and should be forgiven.
Patience is key. Every thought feeling and experience you have is part of the journey.
This is not to be done egotistically, for letting the world know that you have forgiven someone (yes, being egotistical about everything is part of the cycle too, I suggest you get over this part rather quickly, as it can be dangerous) is missing the point. Forgive them to be at peace with your demons. Forgive them because it isn’t doing you any good to hold onto the pain. Forgive them, because you’re hurting others around you with your negative attitude that you have because you held onto that pain.
Most importantly, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the time you yelled at your mom. Forgive yourself for the time you pushed your sibling. Forgive yourself for the times you cheated, stole, lied, hurt, and disregarded. It is not as easy as saying “I’ll throw a blanket of forgiveness over everything and get it done today.” Life doesn’t work like that. Each individual moment must be visualized, remembered, and then let go of. I suggest you do not give yourself false security, for it will only crash harder when reality hits.
Another great aspect of life is that you do not have to wait until you are fully healed to help others. You do not have to wait until you are 85 and wise to help those around you. Granted, you are of little help if you are miserable and grouchy, but even the slightest change in a positive direction yields the ability to help. What joy is there in life if you cannot share what you’ve learned with others?
Once you are able to forgive others, and more importantly, forgive yourself, you are well on your way to transcending the grip emotions have on your life. This means that you can decide how long you are sad, and how quickly you bounce back to happy. This means that you can and will handle whatever comes your way, for your faith in yourself is unwavering.
Trust the process, and be the reason someone smiles today.