A friend asked Bruce Chanen, “Does the suffering we experience ever end?” His answer was to offer his ‘cheat sheet’ for peace.
You asked an incredibly honest and vulnerable question: “Does the suffering we experience ever end?” I think you meant in the context of divorce, but I often wonder the same thing in the context of work, family and life in general. On a hard day, when our minds are tilting toward negative thoughts, you might think the answer is straight from Jason Robards in Parenthood, “It never ends … there’s no goal line … no end zone where you spike the ball and that’s it” … but I believe there is a different answer … that suffering can end immediately … right NOW … by embracing the reality that life is the journey not the destination—that it is the skiing not the mountain or the moguls. Whatever life presents is okay. Live fully and gratefully in this moment. Choose to see the positive and the opportunity. Don’t label everything “good” or “bad.” Life is how we choose to hold it and how we choose to react. Consider this quote as a guide: “This is my secret … I do not mind what happens.” —Jiddu Krishnamurti
Here’s my cheat sheet:
1. Conditioning. Be wary of Conditioning—there is no universal right or wrong … we are conditioned to follow a path that serves others’ notions (parents, spouses, children) of what we should do. It is painful to try to stay in that place … the distance between what your heart wants and what conditioning dictates is the suffering you are experiencing. Go back on course of what your heart wants (purpose) and suffering will drop away.
2. Self-Acceptance. Embrace self-acceptance, self-care and self-compassion—Live your truth, moment-to-moment, and accept that it can change over time (others will talk of obligations and commitments in order to bring you back to conditioning). BE KIND in thought and action to yourself. DON’T represent the opposing view … let others represent themselves. Faithfully defend yourself … see your side … you are human and there is always a perspective of self-acceptance that is worthy of embracing … most days no one else will do it for you (they are understandably seeing their own view).
3. Carry Your Own Load. Similarly, take responsibility for yourself, your wants, feelings and actions—refuse responsibility for the wants, feelings and actions of others – their path is theirs … it is a disservice to our loved ones to carry their load (they grow by carrying their own) … it is a terrible loss to everyone for you to forgo your story so you can live the story others would write for you.
4. Presence. Live in the present—attention to the past can cause depression … to the future can cause anxiety … the PRESENT will align you with purpose and the perfection of the moment. The present moment does not allow space for suffering … if you are feeling unwanted emotions then you are not sufficiently present … narrow your focus … to a single breath if necessary … when that works, do it again.
5. Choose Your Reaction. No situation is a single thing—it is a mix of myriad ingredients. Give your attention to the ingredients (elements) that YOU choose (pick positive emotions which include happiness, love and acceptance … instead of negative emotions of fear, anger, anxiety, and depression). In any situation, look for “positive notes” (like in wine) and give your attention to the particular elements of every situation that speak truth, clarity and joy … there are no extra points for giving attention to the negative.
6. Adopt “I LOVE that!” … about every situation—see the joy and magic in even the hardest experiences—both for yourself and others. We must let go of the notion that we can SOLVE someone else … one L-O-V-E-S … one doesn’t S-O-L-V-E … same letters … yes, I just made that up, ha! 🙂
7. Quiet the Conditioned Mind. I had long vowed to take up meditation, a universally recommended practice but long avoided it as “one more thing to learn”—it isn’t, it is as simple as noticing when you are not in a mental place you wish to be (during any upset or emotional suffering) and taking a moment (a fleeting moment, a minute, 5, 10 … whatever you wish … it can’t be done wrong) and quieting your mind, dropping the negative thoughts, listening to peaceful breaths, thinking an aspirational thought or just imagining a joyous scenario (your pup running and somersaulting through the snow, for example). This is the navigation system guiding you gently back to the path … it is easy, free, and miraculously effective at bringing you back (some suggest saying “I am back” when a meditative moment brings them back to the present).
8. Life is a Journey not a Destination … there is no finish line before we go … there can be joy in EVERY moment (even in the struggle with loss, disease, family dissolution and the upsets of our children).
9. Lead with Joy. The single biggest thing we can do for our partners, children, extended family, friends, and colleagues is be present, joyful, on purpose and at peace … this will create a magnetism around which they can take inspiration and comfort. Think of the people in your life who are like this for you … be one of those people for others.
10. Gratitude. Smile, feel gratitude … enjoy the taste of the food as you eat it, the music as you hear it, the presence of a person who makes you feel good … and the lesson being presented whenever you fall into suffering (ever moment of suffering screams to inform us about our triggers … how conditioning is undermining our joyful pursuit of our path … listen and be grateful for the answer that comes up … it will sharpen your process and make you better). When I was 16, I was practically euphoric to drive a car, turn the ignition, change the gears, press the accelerator, drive down the street, give someone a ride, put gas in the tank, and take it out for a wash. Those are the feelings of gratitude, presence, and joy so common in youth … over time we can forget the vibration of unadulterated happiness that comes from small things and see only the burdens and hassles … gently remind yourself of those things … and bring them back.
Peace brother. Your friend, b