The Sneaky Ways We Seek Suffering

When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near truth- Rumi

The moment I heard these words, my life would change forever. I’d heard them before, many times in many forms, but this time it was different. This time, I got it, loud and clear. It was as if the concept had been knocking at my door for quite some time, quietly, patiently…and finally, I heard it. Thank God! You know what I mean…you can read the same book over and over again, and each time it has a new meaning. You get it when you’re ready to get it. 

What did I get?

I found myself in front of Swami Premodaya, a great spiritual master, as he spoke about his approach to helping others. He was a humble man and spoke casually of his technique saying something like, “I don’t teach people anything new. I teach people to let go of their suffering. That might sound crazy, but people cling to their suffering.”

I’d actually been playing with this concept for quite some time- the idea that we’re not here to learn as much as we’re here to unlearn the many falsities that we’ve been taught that hold us back from being truly alive, joyful, fulfilled, free.

But when I heard this man say it, it struck a chord, it flipped a switch, and suddenly I became very clearly aware of all the self-invoked suffering around me.

It started the next day, when a long-term client came to see me. Throughout the years of our work together, one of her biggest desires had always been finding a healthy relationship. She’d gone through a lot, from breaking up with a long-term partner, to struggling to find herself again, and now, as I sit with her, she revealed the time had come…a man had walked into her life who truly adored her. Everything she’d spoken of wanting- open communication, a feeling of trust and safety, mutual respect- it was all there. I was so happy for her! But I couldn’t believe what I was hearing next- she found herself missing her ex.

Swami Premodaya was right. My dear client was gripping to her suffering. She didn’t know how to let herself be happy.

It wasn’t long before my own attachment to suffering become remarkably clear. Earlier in the month, I noticed that life felt strangely peaceful and fulfilling for me- and I was quite enjoying it, or so I thought. I was shocked to realize all the ways I was actually seeking to sabotage my peace and bring back the suffering. I repeat, everything in my life was smooth, calm sailing and over the course of the month I would come to make all of these decisions:

  1. I need a new car- I don’t like this car anymore. I need a hybrid.
  2. I want to live in LA- everything is happening in LA (mind you I live in a beautiful home with my mother that’s only a short commute to LA and I am able to save money by living here so that I can actually have more freedom to pursue my dreams).
  3. I really need to go on this particular spiritual retreat this month (mind you, it costs thousands of dollars- and I could simply find a beautiful place to camp while still getting spiritual).

I could go on and on with the chaos I bring into my life, really. Within an instant, I had managed to turn my peaceful life into an anxiety-ridden mess of needing to “fix,” and “struggle” and “do more!”

Swami Premodaya popped into my head again. I was clinging to my suffering.

As soon as I realized what I was doing- everything changed. I let go of wanting a new car. I let go of needing to move. I let go of the idea that I needed this spiritual retreat (that was ironically going to bring stress into my life as I ran around trying to come up with the money for it!) And suddenly, I had returned to peace.

All of the chaos was in my head, and I had the power to take it all back in an instant.

And that’s when I got it- at any moment, we can return to peace. This suffering- it’s all our own doing and when we realize this- life becomes so damn liberating! Everything is a choice. And we can simply shift our choices to those that favor peace.

Such relief I felt. It was so empowering to own that this chaos was my own doing and could also, very easily, be my own undoing.

So why then, if it’s that easy, do we insist on clinging to our suffering? In my case, it was all I knew. I didn’t even realize I was doing it! Chaos was just my normal. Most of the time, that’s the example we’re presented with growing up.

Ideas like:

  • Life is scary and out of control
  • We must struggle to reach success
  • We should feel guilty when life feels good
  • If we feel peaceful, we probably aren’t doing enough
  • We aren’t worthy of happiness
  • Life isn’t easy

Crazy right? But true. We’ve been taught that we could always “do more” or “be more.” And what kind of life does that create? A big scary, struggling, guilt-infested mess. And when life begins to feel manageable and in control, we unconsciously shake it up to match our sabotaging core beliefs again. 

It’s not so much that we like the “comfortable pain,” it’s just that it’s all we know. But, with awareness, we can come to know more. We can come to know that there is so much more for us than comfortable pain and chaos- there is peace!

Struggle only leads to more struggle, so now we choose peace. Guilt only leads to more guilt, so now we choose acceptance of joy, acceptance of ourselves, and acceptance of all that feels good! 

We no longer have to favor core beliefs that inflict suffering and guilt and chaos. We just ain’t gonna buy it anymore!

Today, I am at peace. And instead of it triggering a rapid fire of self-sabotage, I accept my peace and I fully enjoy it. Hallelujah!

Peace is my new normal. Peace is my new core belief. Peace is the truth!!

And boy does it feel goooooood. Yep- you’re worth feeling good 🙂

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