Take Control of Your Suffering
Depression for me was about the suffering. The suffering of living. There is no way to see beyond the suffering. But I discovered that Buddhism is the best introduction to the human condition of suffering. Buddha taught that " all life is suffering" he then set out the 4 noble truths. It is through these truths that I began to shift my perspective of the reality I choose to experience in my life.
Suffering is Universal Reality
I recall the day it shifting for me so clearly. I was watching a David Attenborough documentary on Africa and the animals killing, starving and dying. It was so sad and I could see this immense suffering of all nature. Yet, the animals would learn how to keep safe, and then play and enjoy their lives when not in those danger moments. Animals live in the present joy and forget the suffering of the past.
Suffering exists and is a reality. We each have our unique experiences and lessons to learn. We cannot compare our suffering to another's because we are all on our own path. Comparisons are a form of judgment and the critical mind. This is the ego in control. The part of you that keeps you small and living in a limited way.
Be free from judgment. Relinquish your fears. Accept suffering is just a part of existing.
Suffering is a Choice
Evolution was hard and humans struggled. The growth of our species has led to many challenges in the past, but modern day life gives us more time and freedom. Yet, more mental health issues arise due to this change. However, Buddha knew over 2,500 years ago that suffering was a conscious choice in how we perceive our reality and life, even when life was physically much harder for humans.
To remove suffering from life is to be responsible for how you react to your life. How you live and experience your life is not what happens in your life but how you choose to react to it. When I could not join in with my 'old' life and the green monster would appear, I would consciously discover how my new experience was positive. I became active in how I 'experienced' everything.
Usually, the choice is from an expectation, a desire of something we wanted that was not met. We hold onto the past as though it was better than the present. We grasp onto a dream that will be better than the reality we are experiencing. When you stop 'holding' on you can look at it differently - do you really want that? Where is that wanting coming from? How will it make you truly feel good?
Nothing is permanent. You own nothing. All things will pass. Recognise there is only the Now.
Ruminating in the Past
The saying is that depression is living in the past and anxiety is living in the future. Happiness is from living in the present. This is so true!
There are some schools of therapy that rehash your past, you revisit and go over the suffering. The counselling I had as a teenager did this with me. Yet, it made me worse. I became more lost, more angry, more hurt and lonely. I lashed out to everyone around me in my self-hate. Endlessly exploring the harm suffered is to constantly relive in the past, to bring it to the now where you are free from that suffering.
But we do not need to ruminate in it, we acknowledge for its lessons and get on with the present moment. This does not devalue the suffering, it does not hide or brush it away. We learn from the lessons without solely focusing on the suffering, but through how it changes us.
To become humble and relinquish the ego's control, we must learn to let go of our 'little' world and embrace the larger universal expanse and deeper growth. In 2015, I made the intention to 'let go of what no longer serves me'. I actively sought fears, beliefs and behaviours I engaged in and assessed why I did them. Some took several months to understand why they did not serve me. This active process made space for a new me formed from my experiences, but not reliving them through my actions and life choices.
Let Go Of Suffering. Surrender into Space.
A victim "a person who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment. " The key in the words 'come to feel'. When we recognise that we control how we feel then we can understand that emotions are a choice. This choice is what changes our karma and lives.
Suffering connects us. It is a place that we can meet and show compassion. A hand that can be held out to another for them to choose to take a step on their path to true awakening. Yet we do not want to be stuck in suffering with others, we want to all guide and support each other along our own paths.
When bullied as a child I recall being told: "If no-one likes you, then maybe there is something wrong with you. The world can't all be against you." This scarred me greatly. My strength of character refused to obviously completely agree with this statement and I always appeared to follow my own way. However, it was only after my head-injury that I saw how I had a victim mindset.
My ego had disguised how I dealt with this statement. I have followed my own desires, yet my desires were terribly misaligned. I have mentioned before that my dad identified that my approach to life was: "if there is a hard way to do something you will take it and make it harder." This is a very active participation in suffering, I choose to create more suffering than I ever needed to experience to justify my existence and right to live. I was a victim of living.
I had not recognised my dad's comment until faced with an injury that changed my life. I could choose to suffer more as the victim of my injury or actively make the most of my experience. I chose the latter because perhaps it could help others. I began to discover that there could be meaning in my life.
The final step of Buddha's 4 noble truths is 'the way' or the 8 fold path. These are steps to help guide us to awakening. When we release our suffering we awaken and can begin the path to enlightenment.
Take control. Choose ease in your life.
Walking Your Path
Your path is yours and yours alone. My favourite song has always been The Beatles' Long and Winding Road as it resonated with me deeply about the journey of life and discovery of unconditional self-love. This has been a huge part of my path as in depression there is no space for something as large as unconditional love.
The 8 fold path may guide you or yoga's yamas and niyamas could support your journey. Or perhaps the Law of Attraction's approach to the path of least resistance is all you need. Whatever the approach is that opens you to see your suffering and how to let it go.
I love to walk this path with my clients. To hear how they choose to keep their suffering and reflect it back at them. Through my Transformation Program I see wonderful shifts that make space for more joy.
Molly uses the yoga yamas and niyamas for her Yoga Therapy clients, a tool that helped me uncover the final shift of my depression (for another blog post!).