Challenges are inevitable. Suffering is a choice.
This was the topic of a podcast I listened to recently. In it, Marie Forleo interviewed Krishnaji and Preethaji. Marie Forleo, if you’re not familiar, is an amazing entrepreneur, business and life coach. Krishnaji and Preethaji are the founders of an organization called O&O academy. So, in this interview, they talked about the difference between challenges and suffering. Life will always present you with challenges. But, suffering, they say, is a choice. Challenges are the actual situation. Suffering is your reaction to the situation. Suffering comes from your mind’s thoughts and the emotions that those thoughts evoke.
So, how can you move through life’s challenges without suffering? I’ll be upfront about this. It’s not easy. There’s the day to day challenges. Things like getting to work on time, getting your kids ready for school, or dealing with traffic. Then, there’s the bigger challenges that life throws at you. Things like the loss of a loved one, a new diagnosis, or a career change. It maybe that a completely enlightened person would be able to move through these situations without suffering. But, for the rest of us, I think it’s possible to at least minimize our suffering. To find some sort of peace and acceptance within those challenges. Possibly even find happiness and gratitude.
The first step is awareness. Recognize that you’re suffering. Acknowledge the suffering. Maybe even start a conversation with it. Your feelings are valid. They usually show up as a message. So, ask it: "Suffering, what are you hear to teach me? What’s the lesson I need to learn here?"
And then, sit still. Let the light enter those dark spaces. By asking those questions and being open to what arises, you’re letting the light in. The light of guidance and wisdom. It may be subtle as a little whisper from your inner voice. Or, it may be more obvious, like a blog post, book, or social media post that you stumble upon.
If you find it hard to sit still, then try journaling. I meditate daily, which helps me tune in. But, journaling is actually the way I most easily tune into these messages. So, if meditation seems impossible, try sitting down with a pen and paper. Write down these questions: "Suffering, what are you hear to teach me? What’s the lesson I need to learn here?"
Then, let your pen move. Free flow. Whatever comes out, let it be. And, then go back and read what you wrote. You might be surprised what you find. There may be a new perspective, a solution, or a lesson in what you wrote.
I’m interested to hear what you think of this idea of suffering being a choice. And, what you discover when you try out these practices! Leave a comment below to let me know!
"The goal of meditation isn't to control your thoughts; it's to stop letting them control you." -Unkown
I came across this great quote on Instagram last week. It struck me because it's so true! Whenever I talk to someone about meditation, the first thing they say to me is, "But, I can't stop thinking! I try to sit there and be still, but my mind keeps racing!!"
Here's the thing though: It's your mind's job to race! Yoga calls this "the monkey mind." Yoga says that thoughts are the natural process of your mind. When you sit to meditate, you don't try to STOP the thoughts. You don't try to control or force the thoughts. Rather, you ALLOW the thoughts to be there. You WATCH the thoughts. You say, "Hey thought, I see you there. Thanks for stopping by." And then, you shift your focus.
What do you shift your focus to? Anything you CHOOSE to. Through meditation, you choose what your mind focuses on instead of the other way around! To practice, you can focus on your breath, an object, or an affirmation. In this guided meditation, I lead you through a process of focusing on your breath and a sound vibration. Try it out and let me know how you feel afterwards!
P.S. This guided meditation is part of my new 15-Minutes To Mindfulness Toolkit. Subscribe here for the full toolkit!
Our modern, technology-driven lifestyles are so fast-paced that finding stillness these days requires making a conscious active effort. It has gotten to the point that we practically have to pencil in "stillness" in our agenda books (or, rather set up a message alert on our smartphones to remind us to find stillness...hmm, actually not such a bad idea, is it?).
And, let's say that we create the time for stillness; well, what do we do with that time? We have gotten so accustomed to running from one task or appointment to another, that we often don't even know what to do with stillness once we've created it. In fact, taking these calculated pauses in our day can feel uncomfortable. It can be challenging to slip into stillness. Often, when seeking stillness, thoughts may arise such as, "Well, I could sit here in 'stillness,' or I could cross off three more things from my to-do list!" But, if we sit with the practice, those thoughts slowly start to fade away and stillness naturally arises.
The benefits of finding stillness in the spaces of our lives are innumerable. Finding stillness gives us the opportunity to process our daily experiences. It allows us to find more comfort with our selves and all of our inner most soul experiences. We do this in our yoga classes when we find savasana pose. We close every yoga asana session with savasana in order to give our bodies the chance to rest, restore, and assimilate all the benefits of our physical practice. It is similarly important then that we take time in the midst of our daily activities to also pause, rest and restore.
Finding these moments of stillness and rest is not simply an indulgence, rather it is a necessity. Science has recently shown that during periods of sleep, accumulated byproducts to our neuronal cellular metabolism (byproducts of brain cell metabolism) are essentially flushed out of our system. When our body does not get the sleep or rest that it needs, these byproducts accumulate and are thought to lead to neurodegeneration (breakdown of our nervous system, which can show up in our daily lives as irritability, anxiety, and obesity).[i]
So, now that we know the importance of finding stillness, how do we do it? Well, for one thing, finding stillness does not mean sitting on the couch watching tv or surfing the net, which actually creates additional undue stress to our nervous systems. Finding stillness means to really just sit with our self. Consider setting aside some time, maybe even just 5 minutes each day, to find stillness. Find a quiet, peaceful space in your home or in nature where you can sit comfortably. Then, allow your senses to take in your surroundings - all the sights, sounds, and smells, and allow yourself to simply settle into this awareness. Although these steps may sound rather simple, this is actually a very difficult practice even for seasoned yogi's. So, be patient with yourself, but do give it a try. It's well worth the effort.