how to take control of your suffering
*An easy guide to understanding how deal with suffering through the power of non-judgemental awareness.
*Based on the works of Jan Geurtz Addicted to Love. Everything in quotes is in the book!
It may seem like the whole world is against you. I used to add the little failures in my life up, and recite the words “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”
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. Sabrina (our amazing psychologist) would make us practise this special 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 it. 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).
Sabrina raved about how this method has been the biggest breakthrough in therapy. Mindfulness. In essence, mindfulness is just another word for meditation.
Who would you say are the happiest people in the world? 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. Being present in this very moment will be the end of your mental 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 to watch yourself. What is the first thought to come to mind?
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. If you made a list of your daily tasks, there should ideally be nothing else on your mind. 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 conscious awareness. 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 3 main schools of focus when it comes to dispelling your mental suffering.
- Hinayaria – Try to end negative and destructive patterns.
Be aware of your triggers. Make peace with them. Accept in surrender, but stay present.
- Mahayana – Develop positive happiness creating patterns.
Restructure your thought patterns from that point on. Talk to yourself about where it could be coming from. Then, learn to love yourself a little bit more for it. It is in the past, or you have no control about changing the future in this exact moment.
- Vajrayana – Reverse the direction of your mind towards its own perfect nature.
Feel your emotions. Don’t think them. Understand that you came to this planet, and were meant to be exactly who you are right now. You have impacted the world in so many ways that you may not even be aware of.
Techniques to Stay in Awareness
Daily Feeling Recall
“How am I feeling right now?”
For one minute a day, 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
Feel your triggers. Physically. Your inner judge is constantly dictating what you should and shouldn’t do. If you do this be praised, if you do that you will be rebuked. Seeking recognition is only another method to avoid rejection.
“Your inner judge is actually an internalized version of the voice of your parents when you were young.”
Growing up, you had to submit to your parents, assuming the position of being the weaker, inferior one. (But many strong willed adolescents end up rebelling, some grow inferiority complexes). To become the master instead of the slave to the inner judge, you must accept yourself. And move past any fear of self-rejection.
You Have Been Raised with Self Rejection
Our thoughts can often act like wild horses, reacting to all the stimuli you experience outside of yourself, running through the valley of your mind. You can’t calm the horse down by hitting and kicking them (self-rejection). Instead, quiet them with kindness. Be the master.
“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.”
“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.