What if there was nothing to prove, no status to achieve or social media persona to live up to?
What if, in the grip of a low or anxious mood, instead of disappearing into a cul-de-sac of self-chastisement, you take a moment.
Consider Murakimi’s quote: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
You might dismiss it as romantic Eastern philosophy. In our ‘always on’, accelerated, high-pressure, egocentric Western world, suffering seems kinda mandatory at times; but only when we seek our identity via the ever-transient, insecure medium of personal thinking.
All thinking is subjective. My thinking is different to yours because I’ve experienced the world in a different way. I create my reality through a filter that is defined by (nearly) forty years of narrative and conditioning. The ‘story of me’ is deftly fabricated and prompts me to interpret even the subtlest interactions based on my ‘accumulated self’, and the defining relationships that have shaped the imagined idea I hold of who I am.
If you’re thinking ‘hold on, she’s gone a bit woo-hoo’ then bear with me.
I used to naively believe that thoughts were truth. If I thought I wasn’t good enough, then that was my reality. And in the thick of emotional pain I definitely bought into that. While I later was able to challenge the content of the thought, I didn’t quite understand the degree to which my thinking was shaping my reality. Here’s the thing – it’s responsible for all of it. Because reality is constructed through thought. Didn’t Descartes say ‘I think, therefore I am’?
Here’s where thinking gets tricky. If like me, you’re prone to analysis, you’ll know that thinking about thinking isn’t helpful. So to try and think my way out of a dark or wobbly experience is like diving back down a rabbit-hole in pursuit of fresh air – it’s only going to end in more confusion and I’ll probably feel pretty constricted and unable to see clearly.
When we experience pain in life – whether it’s loss, unhappiness, grief, or some form of emotional distress – we often (quite innocently) fly straight into resistance. We might feel that it’s somehow wrong or weak, or that there’s a pressure to be happy and it jars with the reality of that pain. We may also believe we won’t be able to cope with the pain, so we try and run away from it, all the while experiencing a heightened sense of ‘entrapment’. This wrestling with pain, or denial of ‘what is’ is suffering and it’s all-consuming and stifles our perspective.
In truth, life is neither predictable nor constant. We experience happiness, loss, worry, joy, grief, excitement, boredom and just about every shade of grey in between. All those emotions are valid and we can control the way we experience them about as much as we can control the British weather.
And it’s this preoccupation with control that leads us to believe we can always be somehow more than we are in this moment. So if, like many of us, you’ve scrolled down your social media feed this January wondering how exactly to be better, achieve greater heights, look thinner, walk taller or earn (tonnes) more then this blog post is going to be the mother of all disappointments. What I do know, however, is that you’re probably asking the wrong questions.
Because the ‘you’ that you’ve created through years of storytelling and conditioning is just a series of thoughts. And if thinking is nebulous and transitory then you (just like me) are free to rewrite that narrative at any time. It’s kinda liberating.
You know what’s even more interesting? The real you is already whole.
There’s no gap to fill, no destination to strive for, nothing to prove and no sense of lack.
Because you are enough.
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