how to end your internal suffering
*An easy guide to understanding how to end all suffering through the power of non-judgemental awareness.
This is part five.
It may seem as if the whole world is against you. I used to add the little things up and I tell myself that “I hate my life” everyday. But you aren’t necessarily a victim of your circumstances.. you are a victim to your mind.
“Nothing is good nor bad, but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare
I used to be in this anxiety group every Wednesday in my high school. At this point, I didn’t know anything about anxiety. I just knew that when I cried or got overwhelmed, my legs and hands would go completely numb. I’d hyperventilate and I had no idea why. Sabrina (our amazing psychologist) would make us practise this technique every session. We would grab an object, look at our hands or eat a piece of candy and describe this thing in great detail non-judgementally. …every curve, every flavour, every note with each of our senses. It seemed boring at first.. I had no idea why we were doing this. But this simple task was actually making us stay completely present. As we described these things, there was nothing else to think about (only unless we tried to).
This method is seen as the biggest breakthrough in therapy. This simple practise is what therapists and psychologists call mindfulness. In essence, mindfulness is just another word for meditation.
Who would you say are the happiest people in the world? Drug addicts on a high? The rich? Miley Cyrus’ dogs?
Well, it’s been scientifically proven that Buddhist monks are the happiest people in the world, as the parts of their brain responsible for happiness light up when they are deep in meditation.
Depression is your past, anxiety is your future. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve never heard a truer statement. Being present in this very moment will be the end of your suffering. As you practise mindfulness, you learn to quiet these incessant thoughts, that at times, don’t even seem to come from you.. but to you. I mean, take a minute.. watch yourself. See what you helplessly think about next.
Imagine the Earth devoid of human life, inhabited only by plants and animals. Would it still have a past and a future? Could we still speak of time in any meaningful way? The question, “What time is it?” or “What’s the date today?” – if anybody were there to ask it – would be quite meaningless. The oak tree or the eagle would be bemused by such a question. “What time?” they would ask. “Well, of course, it’s now. The time is now. What else is there?”
The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle
As you sit here and read this. You are safe. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this moment. Everything you’re worrying about will be dealt with eventually. Make a list and complete each task as they come. There is no point in overthinking a problem into existence. Once you realize how incredibly okay you are in this moment, do your best to be present.. with this exercise.
Sit, stand or lay in a comfortable position. Take note of your breathing. Remain constantly conscious of your own mind. Know that you’re doing this. While you’re inhaling know that you’re inhaling, while you’re exhaling know that you’re exhaling. It is perfectly fine and expected to have random thoughts pop into your mind. You will get distracted. Be mindful of this. Congratulate yourself each time you catch yourself trailing off. That, in itself, is consciousness. Take notice of what your next thought will be. Then bring yourself back to right now. You mustn’t get angry or frustrated at yourself for losing focus. Clearing your mind takes a lot of practise. Now, feel through every part of your body. Feel what they are touching. Your feet, your calves, your thighs, your stomach, your chest, you arms and hands. Feel the clothes on every part of your skin. Do not judge. Be present in this moment.
“Permanent awareness is a definitive end of your suffering.” – Eckhart Tolle
You arrive home from a long day and notice something in the corner of your living room. A snake! You retreat, closing the door behind you, fearful of the unknown. It is poisonous? Do you even dare find out? So you cower in fear, avoiding ever returning into that very room. But if you only took a minute to face this, to really pay attention and offer your non-judgemental awareness, you would have realized that the snake you cower from is actually just a piece of rope. Confront your pain. See it for what it is. Continuing to avoid pain will only further perpetuate it.
There are three main schools:
- Hinayaria – Try to end negative and destructive patterns.
“Teaches you to avoid or eliminate situations and thoughts that cause misery (triggers) trying to end your destructive habits such as addictions or self-neglect.”
- Mahayana – Develop positive happiness creating patterns.
“The development of positive automatic responses as an antidote to the negative ones. Need consciousness to abundance consciousness.”
- Vajrayana – Reverse the direction of your mind towards its own perfect nature.
“Recognizing the true essence in all negative patterns. Emotions (like aggression, obsession, aversion, and attachment) are no longer negative or avoided but seen through and ‘felt through’ and transformed into their pure essence.”
“Your awareness is sometimes known as a witness because it constantly witnesses everything that occurs in your mind and around you. Just like a mirror does not become dirty by the object it reflects. Consciousness in moments of worrying will help. Instead of rejection and dissociating, you continue to look at yourself and your worries with kind and nonjudgmental awareness. Worrying is no longer rejection. You mustn’t fight the busy mind, but must learn to embrace it with attention and awareness. That is the essence of meditation.”
1 minute meditation.
“How am I feeling right now?”
For one minute, stop and ask yourself how you are feeling. Without thinking about why you are feeling any certain way, be mindful of your internal emotions. Where are you feeling it in your body? Focus only on your body.
“Allow yourself to feel. If you catch yourself retelling stories in moments of focus through pain, your mind is trying to find relief. Justified denial of your own responsibility. The smartest way to get out of a painful situation.”
Meditation through Pain
“Tensing up dissolves and the pain transforms into pure energy. Each time you’ll see the illusion of suffering more quickly. Eventually it will be the pain itself that reminds you of your natural state, so that the arising and dissolving of the pain takes place almost simultaneously.”
“The inner judge advises us what to do. If you do this you get lots of praise, if you do that you could seriously lose respect. But when you only do something in order to get peoples praise or don’t do something only out of fear of rejection, your inner judge is instantly ready to attack with self rejection.”
“Your inner judge is actually an internalized version of the voice of your parents when you were young.”
“When you hear it you feel small and powerless like a child. You must reclaim your power from the inner judge. Much like your parents, you always had to submit, being the weaker one. Going against the criticism will only strengthen its position of power. To release your inner judge, you must make the decision that you’re never going to abandon yourself again. Meditation. The self-aware consciousness. Free from rejection and self rejection. The ultimate answer.”
“Don’t add to the vicious cycle. Don’t get angry about being angry. The problem isn’t your cravings (sex, drugs, sweets) but your rejection of that craving and of yourself as the craver. Every ego pattern is in fact an automatic response aimed at protecting yourself against rejection, and obtaining love and approval. Let the world just be as it is. Then your pity and powerless frustration will change into compassion and effortless action for the well-being of yourself and everyone else. Start embracing everything in and around yourself with non-judgmental awareness. Happiness produced by negative actions is actually nothing other than a temporary reduction of the distress that made us engage in them.”
“Our observing mind is tied onto the horse of our thoughts and emotions, reacting wildly and erratically to all kinds of stimuli, running erratically, rearing and prancing through the meadow of our life. We try to calm it down by hitting and kicking it (self rejection). The spiritual path teaches you to stop hitting the horse, but instead to quiet with it kindness. To cooperate, occasionally dismount making you no longer the victim of your own mind and its observers. The rider who can use it or let go of it whenever you want.”
“You must learn to see many of the securing layers of patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving in order to be really free from your own thoughts and emotions. Once you realize that you are not your thoughts and emotions, and recognize them as a game of the mind, you are free. Love is mutilated to become security. Connectedness is twisted into clinging, effortless giving disappears behind making efforts to receive. The more you can embrace those deep feelings of missing a partner yourself with non-judgmental awareness, the less dependent on other people’s love and approval you become. And the more your need consciousness becomes abundance consciousness.”
We need to realize that life is a ride. We’re simply observing our lives as it unfolds. Especially to the things we have no control over, we must understand that everything happens for a reason.
*Based on the works of Jan Geurtz. Everything in quotes is taken directly from the book.