To live is to suffer

It’s odd how when we suffer, we can gain a lot of insight into our lives. It’s not until everything goes wrong that we see what was going right before. When our car finally breaks down, we notice how well it was running before. We hate our job but we find that we don’t have any other job we like better.

To suffer is a condition of life. We must constantly tear down and rebuild everything around us. If we don’t tear it down, the walls will crumble anyways. The impermanence of everything assures that. By accepting life as a struggle it ceases to be one.

I wrote last night about a lot of the struggles I was going through. My car broke down, my jaw kept me up all night, and a lot more things were at the forefront of my mind. However, I was unconditionally accepting of it all and let it pass by. I accepted the suffering as part of life’s way of challenging me as a person.

When we stagnate, we become ignorant. When we stop all struggling and suffering, we neglect change. We become ignorant of the things around us. By suffering, we embed compassion and understanding in everyone.

This does not mean that to suffer is good. Rather, suffering is part of life and as much as we wish for only growth, we also have to take a few steps back sometimes. To suffer and to mentally reject it, we fall into another self-defeating track. We must realize that although we will suffer through our lives, we will also have great joys and great losses.

To have is also to lose. To have loved is also to have lost. In great happiness, there is also great sadness. As Osho describes, it is like a great tree; happiness grows towards the sky and branches out, while the sadness buries itself into the ground to form roots. The greater the happiness, the greater the sadness. In everything is its opposite.

Once we realize that life will inexplicably move on, we can accept life as it is and the suffering is not as bad. We can help others who suffer and enjoy life in a different way.

Remember, when you’re going through a tough time, it may become worse but it will definitely become better. Life challenges you and sometimes you will feel like you’re peddling backwards, you’ll feel like everything is wrong, but I assure you, your life is moving forwards. When you struggle, you learn how not to struggle, then you struggle with something else (ad infinitum). See the process as part of life and you will relieve a lot of stress.

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Don’t let life get you down

Sometimes stress can be overbearing. For the past two weeks I’ve been stressing over a test I had to take today. It has consumed my mind constantly and I’ve been waiting to get it over with. After taking the test and passing my car broke down while I was driving a friend home. So I had to get it towed and find an auto-shop down here in Charleston. Then I had to call friends and see who would drive through the insane traffic to get us. After I got home my wisdom teeth started hurting – something I should have taken care of a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I don’t have a car or any friends with Advil. Tomorrow I’m going to have to walk to work and leave 30 minutes early.

However, none of this is getting me down. This is part of life, and as Osho teaches, we should accept life as it comes to us. Yes, everything is unfortunate. However, I’m happy that there are so many gracious people around me to help when it gets difficult. I’m grateful for everything right now. Sometimes life is difficult and stress is overbearing – but when we struggle against what’s happening, we suffer.

I do this by accepting what’s happening and removing the extra or the interpretations. “My car broke down today” instead of “my stupid car broke” or “this would happen to me“. I could label things as good and bad but instead I choose just to feel it without the label. Inside that feeling I don’t feel good or bad, it just is what happened.

Sometimes stress is overbearing and we’re blindsided by the things that life throws at us. Sometimes it’s okay and sometimes we breakdown. It’s important to let life just flow. It happened and I’ve moved on. I’m here now. That’s all the world has to offer us, deal with the situation at hand and let go of it.

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Let go

One of the things I struggle with, and I think many of us struggle with this, is trying to find ground. When we have situations that discomfort us, we resort to certain things. Stereotypically, women love chocolate after break-ups. That’s a ground. When someone dies, a ground may be looking at photographs of them.

As I’ve been reading further into Buddhism, I’m finding that a huge part of our suffering as humans comes from this grip towards a ground. We try to find solace in materials things or memories in our heads. The truth is, there is no ground. There’s no point of absolute stability that you can stand on.

By accepting that there is no ground, or replacement for what we’ve lost, we can move on to to the next stage of our being. We can accept what is.

This is my struggle right now – I search for a ground and I’m tired of trying to find peace. I’m tired of trying to find solace. I place my ground as producing art, driving my car pointless around, and, mostly, by giving time. I think that if I reach for time and think everything will be better in a few years, I don’t have to deal with what is happening now. I find comfort knowing parts of my life will end. That’s a ground that I struggle with.

Realize that there are no true grounds in life. A ground is a replacement for what truly is in front of you. It’s the excuse to not accept what is in your life. Things are hard, trust me I know, but things are much easier once you accept them. Stop trying to hold onto everything.

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Coming “Home”

Where we are can mean a lot to us because we get attached to each location. Sometimes it’s passive, sometimes we intentionally make a space “ours”. We fall in love with the familiar and learn to judge our happiness based on how far we are from our idea of “home”.

After leaving my dorm for winter vacation I was temporarily relocated just across town. For some reason I was incredibly stressed about both moves; leaving my “home” of two months and then moving back. It seemed like every detail of both moves was a life or death situation and I dreaded each second of it. I attached to each location and couldn’t separate from either. My concept of home had become dynamic but it didn’t prevent the stress of leaving a familiar location.

One of the big things I thought I was going to learn with my job was adaptability. However, I confused the terms “adaptability” and “attachment”. Getting my job didn’t make me any less attached to each location or any of my possessions, it just forced me to become adaptable. Adaptability is the ability to change but adaptability doesn’t make the person accept the change. It just makes them more able to change.

Detachment causes adaptability because you are no longer desiring or anticipating certain outcomes. When you run across a bump in the road, you don’t get angry or upset. Adaptability merely refers to the actions and not the mindset.

When I returned to my old dorm room I opened my closet of possessions and felt happy. Immediately after feeling happy I had the realization that I was incredibly attached to my possessions. My possessions were what was creating my feelings of happiness. My items and familiarity with those items brought me happiness.

This is analogous to a rotten apple. From the outside it may look sweet and desirable but underneath there is just rot. The happiness was created on the surface with these items but underneath there was the fear of becoming separated from them. It was not really happiness, it was just satisfaction of possession. I was happy that I possessed these items again.

Attachment is incredibly difficult to overcome. To become detached, one has to openly embrace and accept the unknown. They must venture that they cannot know what is about to come. They could lose all their possessions or they could win the lottery. There’s a duality there where a person finds peace. You accept that you just don’t know if you’re going to win the lottery or lose it all.

Someone who wants to become detached must first work on the their possessiveness of their possessions. They must realize that everything they own could vanish at any given moment. If they can accept that, then they will have gratitude for everything they have. Whether that be friendships or fancy dinner plates.

For the next week I’m going to focus on removing myself from everything. Not retreat similar to isolation but rather removing my ownership of everything. My friends are not my friends, they are just people who I hang around. The clothing in my closet is just temporary clothing I use to cover my body. My body is not me, I am just an occupant in it. This time is not my time, it is just time passing by. When someone uses a lot of time, they are not using “my time” they are just using time. I cannot get mad at someone for just using time, I can only get mad when they are using “my” time.

It sounds ridiculous to say nothing is ours but none of it is really “ours”. This dorm that I live in is not my home. It is a home – it is a place. I may own it on paper or for the next five months but it is not really mine. It just is. I cannot change it, I can only accept it as what it is. As a place.

Putting expectations on it will only lead to unhappiness. One day I could walk to the door and find that I have been transferred to another location. I could find the room burglarized. The building could collapse and all of the things in the room could be destroyed by a fire. We do not really own anything. The things just are.

When we detach and realize that we own nothing, we come to a realization that we usually cannot control. Many things will just be as they are and we do not have the ability to change them. The things we thought we owned suddenly are shared and are independent of us. When I move rooms, I will not feel sad because I do not associate myself with this room. This room is just a room. It is not my room.

The room is not the memories that I built in it. The room is just a place. Leaving the room does not mean leaving the memories behind. If running shoes in the closet disappeared, I will not be saddened because I am not attached to them. The shoes are just shoes. They temporarily supported my feet and if they disappear, I do not worry. They are not mine, they just are. Having them disappear does not make me any less of a person. I am not less because I own less.

This is a practice that I’m going to focus on this week. I need to detach myself from anticipating the future. I do not own it and I cannot control it. I should just accept it as it comes along. There are no “should-have-been”s, there are just “are”s. The tests are here, the sky is blue, the fruit is rotten. I need to forget that tests are stressful, blue skies mean that it’s probably cold outside, and that rotten fruit is bad. None of this is necessarily true. It is only the adjectives we place on the words that brings us unhappiness. Putting an adjective with them that defines them as “good” or bad”, something we like or something we dislike. Just let the experience be and don’t define or attach to it.

Coming back to the room was an enlightening experience because it made me realize that I was too attached to my things. I anticipated what I would do with them and that I had expectations of them. In this case they made me happy but maybe next time they will be gone. That time I will not become unhappy, I will just accept what is in that moment.

Right now I’m changing how I think about what “home” is. A home is a place and that place for me is this moment. Then it is now this moment. It is always changing and I will always have to accept that. Home is not where I am physically, nor is it where I am mentally. It is when the two cross and I choose to live. I hope that you will also choose to live at those crossroads and remove yourself from “your” possessions.

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