Let Go of Your Suffering
Like most animals, humans run toward and seek pleasure and shy or even run away from anything that might produce pain. In particular, we are masters of avoiding ourselves. It’s part of our nature to seek pleasure and avoid suffering as best we can. Not many voluntarily seek out emotional pain.
But consider that in the United States, we’ve seen an increase of over 40% in the past year in what is now called “deaths of despair”: suicide, drug overdose and alcohol abuse. For years now, we’ve been reminded of how we are a nation in the midst of a tragic opioid epidemic that less likely stems from physical pain than it does from emotional pain.
We’re a nation under tremendous stress and certainly, the pandemic didn’t help us feel any more grounded. In fact, it only further compounded our sense of lack of control.
When our well-being has been disrupted by challenge and stress, we lose what is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is described as the relatively stable equilibrium between our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels; all of which rely on the other to maintain balance.
When our homeostasis is disrupted, we are less capable of dealing with disruptive challenges and access and exhibit resilience to stress.
Thus, when we’re out of balance, instead of confronting those challenges and disruptions, we tend to ignore, run away from or deny their very existence. And, we’ve become a nation seeking a pill to handle everything that might be occurring.
The root causes of stress are psychological in nature.
Am I valued?
Do I have a meaningful place in society?
Is there a place for me in my community?
Why am I here?
As part of our stress coping strategy, some of us turn to habitual patterns of behavior that only serve to compound this imbalance in body, mind and spirit. Maybe we overeat, spend hours surfing the net, over exercise, buy all sorts of things we don’t need online, smoke weed, do other drugs, drink too much, gamble or some other form of self-sabotaging behavior. Perhaps we sink into a depression and isolate ourselves from the world.
Consider that today, life expectancy in the US has dropped for the three consecutive years – more than in any other developed country in the world. The US population accounts for 4.7% of the world’s population and 80% of the world’s opioid consumption. Fifty people die every day in the US from opioid overdoses. These “deaths of despair” stem from the opioid crisis but also from cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism and suicide, the two other leading causes of death in the US today.
Are we really in that much physical pain? I don’t think so.
It’s the psychological pain that drives us into suffering. We often run from the pain of our reality as opposed to confronting it head-on. Perhaps we’re afraid of what we might discover if we uncover and have to confront if we were ever to express our true feelings.
Numbing out, tuning out, vegging out are seemingly better ways out.
Buddha’s first teaching, the Four Noble Truths, reminds us that life includes suffering. He refers to the basic suffering humans experience day to day – the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations, a night spent tossing and turning from stress, an argument with a friend, an overdue project, and of course, illness, old age, and death. Of course there are more severe forms of suffering such as all kinds of unresolved trauma. The point being, inevitably, life includes struggle, difficulties, uncertainty, disappointment and the like. It’s unavoidable.
What if part of our inability to reach or stay in homeostasis has everything to do with our inability to confront ourselves and our own suffering?
Actually, what if we were to shift our mindset to welcome these difficult experiences, grief, stress, failures,?
What if, instead of turning or running away from the challenges and difficulties of life, we turned around and faced them squarely in the face?
Buddha also said that it is in the suffering is where we learn the lessons of life and find the opportunity to further our personal transformation.
We were born innately whole and complete. This wholeness integrates our ability to be resilient and resist stress. It also helps to incorporate our inner urgency to move toward making the best use of our talents and skills to serve humanity.
Left unchecked, when we are out of balance in body, mind and spirit, we are actually denying ourselves our birthright of living a life of peace, joy and freedom.
But it takes courage.
Can you let go of your familiar suffering, familiar complaints and stories of unhappiness, past disappointments and traumas and challenge yourself to disrupt your status quo?
Let’s do it together.
Join the beautiful Satsang House community as we disrupt the status quo together and reach for a place of peace in body, mind, and soul.
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