Do we have to suffer all the challenges of life?
Suffering is part of life, isn't it? But what is suffering? Unhappy thoughts, unfulfilled desires, physical challenges, illness, loss, disappointments, resentments, anger, fear, feelings of depression, stress and the endless challenges that punctuate every life. They can dominate us at times and may become so overwhelming that the only release we can imagine is to dull the pain in any way possible, or even consider leaving the life.
But do we have to suffer all this? Yes we do experience all these things on a mental, emotional and physical level and often they drive us inward in search of answers, to try to make sense of it all, and this can lead to an awakening within us - a discovery of a deeper dimension to who we are that in fact does not suffer.
It usually happens that we first experience brief moments of release from the pain as we step out of it, into a place that can only be described as somewhere that is not the physical self, but not separate from it. It is peaceful - somehow removed from our mind, emotions and feelings.
This process is called 'awakening', and it is a shift in our consciousness. Once it has begun it tends to deepen and with this we find that all surface experience takes on a different quality where it is less all-consuming. In the early stages the difficult thoughts, emotions and feelings continue to arise strongly and still take us over. When this happens we find ourselves already immersed in them, but when we realise this, we now have a way out. In time, through repeated trips through the process of waking out of the suffering of something difficult or painful, we come to a point when we begin to automatically 'see' things when they arrive, rather than being unknowingly immersed in them. When this occurs, the trick is, when you feel yourself falling in, being taken over - stop. Don't feed the downward spiral with your attention. Recognise what is there, be aware of it, allow it to be, but use that moment as a trigger to step back into stillness.
This action needs to become a habit, a conscious mental habit. Note to yourself over and over, either when you find yourself already in the flow of difficult experiences, or when you sense the first waves and say to yourself - ah, here it goes - there it is - but I'm not getting into that - instead I'm going to retreat from it, into myself, into my inner centre. Retreat into that 'place' where everything is quiet and peaceful, bring your focus there, put your attention there.
As you become more and more able to do this and your connection to your inner stillness grows, the attacks of the mind and emotions - the sizzling energy of pain, or of bad memories, regrets, anxiety or fear, will begin to lose their strength and hold on you. They will gradually become less able to draw you in, to the point where they are feeble and only experienced in your external self, unable to pull your true self out of its place of peace.
Try this technique (try it again and again until it becomes automatic). ...When something painful or difficult comes to you, trust that you know the inner stillness and peace is there, and deliberately search for it. You know that place exists, you have felt it, you have been there, so persist in seeking it out, even if the pull of the experience is really powerful.
That place of your inner quiet is your truth. It is stable, secure and welcoming and even though it has a 'soft emptiness' about it, no thought or feeling has any power over it. Resting there, the clouds of difficult feelings and thoughts start to dissipate and even pain loses its intensity - not because they disappear, but because they are external and you know this from a deeper place where they cannot go.
Gradually every aspect of physical, mental and emotional life comes with less potency, and at some point you will be amazed to discover that, no matter how difficult, there is nothing that can cause you to to be uprooted from your place of truth.
This is liberation - and freedom from suffering.