Friday, April 22, 2011

Suffering is Optional

Some of the worst things I ever experienced never really happened.  I was real good, a “master” mind you, of being able to take a grain of pain and create a mountain of suffering. It was familiar, like a comfy blanket I could wrap myself in–one that confirmed my reality. I could lie swaddled in my circumstances knowing my role of “victim” was secure.

I have realized the universe will usually prove me right. This is a great paradigm I awakened to but only after realizing that it works in two ways. For many years I would exclaim, “My life sucks!” It would prove me right. “I am going nowhere!” It would prove me right. “The world is full of evil people.” It would prove me right. “I am never going to get out of this (insert challenging circumstance)!” It would prove me right.

It is our focus that often binds us to our perceived insurmountable obstacles. Our self-victimization that we are being caught in the crosshairs of a malicious God or universe–that our purpose must be one of suffering.

I lament at the awareness now that I spent so many years in a self-conjured prison with my hands gripping the bars white-knuckled and screaming to be set free. In my unrelenting grip trying to rattle the binds of my own Bastille, I never let go of the bars to realize I held the “key” in my own pocket. My focus affixed on the jailor “out-there” distracting my gaze–incapacitating me to simply reach “inside” for the key I already held. My focus kept me blind.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Pain is the circumstances life bestows upon us to strengthen us, challenge us, bind us, and perhaps reconnect us to our faith. It nudges our rudder to keep our lives fresh and vibrant–although often not of our liking or choosing, inevitable none-the-less. The most righteous, rehearsed, learned, and cautious will succumb to the inevitable brush with pain. Yes it hurts, but for how long will we allow it to remain?

Suffering however is where we continue to remind ourselves that we still should be hurting. We writhe in the familiar only because we bring it along like a carry-on bag in our life’s voyage. This can occur with people who have encountered great obstacles: addiction, divorce, loss, disease. For some reason the obstacle becomes the "identity." We drop our anchor in yesterday retarding our ability to sail again. There is a difference between fear and respect. Fear paralyzes one into inactivity. Respect empowers one into seeking new paths. Respect your painful experiences, don’t fear them.

I find that many enjoy pushing the “play” button on these little movies that run in our mind. We continually rewind, hit play, and re-experience the event over and over. At the end we say, “See, THAT is why I feel this way!” The brain cannot differentiate between the current and the movie, so you will indeed get the same biological responses repeatedly: nervousness, anxiety, heart palpitations, tears, anger, and the entire cornucopia of physical symptoms that accompanied the original event. Play a lot of movies, get a lot of responses. Pain is the original event. Suffering is the rewinding and replaying. Pain we cannot control. Suffering we can. Put down the remote!

Nowadays I dedicate myself to trying to remain aware of my CHOICE of FOCUS. I have found the simple key has been in my pocket all along. I decided to stop screaming through the bars, screaming in my pillow, screaming in the mirror and simply decide to rearrange what I focused on in my recovery from any challenging situation.

If I decide to say, “I know I will bounce back from this!” The universe will prove me right. “There is a way out!” It will prove me right. “I am strong enough to handle this!” It will prove me right. “I am not alone in my trials and tribulations!” It will prove me right. “There are powers greater than myself at work in all of this!” Proof will indeed manifest.

Like many men, for many years I had to have my keys in my pocket, remote in hand, and know where I was going. Now I enjoy the journey knowing in advance I will eventually arrive where I should. I realize too that there are certain things I no longer need my remote for. And if you need a key, extend your hands through the bars and you can have one of mine.


Jacqui said...

Nice one Tony! Remember me from Uplift Antidote? Beeeeeeaaaaauuutiful post and very very true. We do indeed create our own suffering. How silly of us! :)

Tony Anders said...

Jacqui! Of course I remember you! Good to hear from you! Thank you as always for your kindness! I hope you are well!