I’ve heard this teaching so many times, and it wasn’t until years later – after many repeats by teachers I respected and a few hard times that left me spiraling – that it finally hit me: Holy shit, they were right.
Suffering happens when we wish things were different than they are.
This may seem trite, but it is totally f*cking profound, and here’s why:
We think that the reason we are suffering so much is because of what the other person said.
Because we lost our job.
Because we didn’t have enough money.
Because that hot first date didn’t call us back.
Because we weigh 25 pounds more than we want.
Because we only have 2 weeks vacation.
But the suffering – the continued worsening of the pain – is something we create by wishing things were different than they are. Remember the saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional?” This is exactly what that is referring to.
I’m not saying those things are not hard. Or painful. They are. However:
Pain x Resistance = SUFFERING
If we don’t get what we want, we feel pain. That’s a normal human response. But when we spend days ruminating on why it happened to us, how we could have prevented it, how we can possibly try again to make things turn out a different way, or on how we just wish so badly things turned out differently – aka RESISTING what is – that, my friend, is suffering. And it’s optional. In fact, we’re creating it ourselves!
Here’s an example from my own life:
Marriage is hard.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Like waaaaay harder than climbing Aconcagua (22,837ft). Or trying to have sexy time while on the Fresh Air Traverse of the East Face of Mount Whitney.
I found that things were not quite what I expected them to be (surprise! Ain’t that always the shizzle?).
I thought my partner would behave a certain way once we had our kiddo. I thought I’d be working a lot less the first year of her life. I thought we’d be raising her from my van on the road, living simply. Or in a yurt in the mountains. I thought we’d be paddling and climbing together – not watching my husband take off into the air with his new-found paragliding passion.
And I. Was. Pissed.
OMG I was pissed.
Things were supposed to be different. We talked about this. We made agreements. It was all laid out.
So how did everything end up like this????
And let me tell you – life coach or not, I let this toxic thought stew in my brain for years. Not moments. Not months. Years.
Am I being dramatic when I use the word toxic? No. Wishing something was different than it is is toxic. Especially when you have very little control over the situation (like, say, another person;). Especially when it goes on for years.
One day, I got tired of feeding myself toxic thoughts. The good thing about being a life coach is you are constantly talking with other people about how to change their mindsets. So, it’s not like I didn’t have the tools to do it. I was just avoiding it. And everything else was pretty damn good, so I could ignore this toxic thought until I couldn’t.
I was getting something out of carrying around this thought (so that’s another blog post – but ask yourself: what might you be benefitting from by not letting this thought go?).
But eventually my own good advice caught up to me, and I had to either change my mindset or leave the hubs, because it was not good for my health. Or my kiddo. And I love my hubs, so I decided to work on own mind – something I did have control over.
I decided to accept how things were. No, it’s not what we had discussed. But it is what’s happening now, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change, so….what if I just accepted what IS?
I’ll tell you what happened.
My heart started opening up again. We actually started having fun together again.
My business took off to the next level. I was no longer pissed I had to work so much and instead embraced it and thought, well, if I’m going to do it, might as well crush it even MORE!
I saw myself as a badass pulling off a lot of hard shit, instead of as a victim.
I moved the fuck on.
But out of all the things I said above, the biggest gift was the heart-opening I felt. Instead of resisting who this other precious being in my life was, I accepted him. And wow – isn’t that what we all want? To be accepted?
What a gift to him. And the release of trying to control things was a gift to me.
So you see, all I did was change my mind. I decided to be OK with it. To accept it.
It really was that simple.
On the other hand, the journey to be willing to do that – to know that I could do that and it didn’t mean selling out my soul or my dreams – was looong. But the shift was simple.
I remember a Tibetan monk once teaching me, “You can be happy just. like. that.” And he snapped his fingers.
Just. Like. That.
Guess he was right too.
Let me be clear: This is not to encourage you to settle. Or to not dream.
I’m a coach for Freedom Junkies, and I want you to dream big and go for it.
But I am saying to let go of it already. Not of your dreams – not those. Hold on tight to those.
Let go of the bullshit thoughts and expectations that are holding you back.
Accept what is so you can live creatively and positively and start manifesting the life you want (vs stewing about how you wish it was different).
So what’s the jedi mind-trick?
Acceptance of whatever is happening right now.
Go create what you want.
You’ve got this.
Be sure to check out the Ziji Up! Mastery Program, where you learn other jedi skills like this one to take your confidence to the next level.
If you want to join a tribe of people that will help you navigate this wild and precious life, come check out Freedom School – for rebels like you. It’s not just personal growth for rebels. It’s Jedi training for the new world.