What is suffering? Is it the same as pain? Can they be separate, so that any suffering you experience can be diminished or eliminated altogether? Another deep episode where I share some practical steps you can take to stop suffering, and find your path to inner peace. I promise, I only mention meditation once. The rest of it, you may be surprised by.
What is the end-all, be-all to everything you do in life? What is the ultimate goal for every step you take towards something you want in life? What is the outcome you want for every step you take away from something you don’t want in your life?
Is it to be super rich? Is it to be ultra-healthy? Is it to find your soulmate? How about even something simpler, like “All I want is food, shelter, transportation, and love”?
No matter what you’re seeking and going after in life, what’s even more important than that? I mean, if you had all those things now, what would, or what do they give you?
And I mean from a really deep place: If you had all those things you want, what does having them really give you? What are you really seeking in life?
The anticipation of finding the love of your life always seems stronger than having the love of your life, especially after 5, 10 or even more years of being together. So does having something really equate to wanting something?
Which makes me repeat the question, what do you really want from having all the things you want in life?
Or, to keep it simple, if all your wants and needs are fulfilled, what happens to you on the inside? Are you complete? Do you feel an inner peace and balance? Or are you now left wanting even more?
Most people do want a sense of inner peace. They want the feeling of a somewhat peaceful and balanced life. I’m not saying everyone wants this, but most do. Especially if you’ve experienced, or are experiencing now, any suffering in your life.
I ask you all these questions to give you an opportunity to really explore what brings you peace and balance in your life. A new car, a new house, or even the love of your life, is not something that makes you feel whole or complete. It may seem like they do, but remember that none of those things were ever a part of you to begin with.
As an infant, all you needed were to be fed, cleaned and monitored to make sure you had the ideal, comfortable environment in which to grow. Of course, being loved and nurtured was a definite bonus, and did help in your overall well-being.
But in general, you didn’t care if you were wrapped in a blanket, or a newspaper, as long as you were warm and cozy. You didn’t care if your food was organic and cage-free, as long as it was pleasant. And you probably didn’t even start thinking about wanting to be “happy” until you were old enough to attach your emotions to things outside of your basic needs.
Before that, you were happy, assuming those basic needs were met. Well, it’s actually deeper than that. You weren’t actually happy, you just “were”. There was no need for happiness, because you didn’t know that sadness was an emotion.
You certainly felt pain and discomfort. You cried when you were hungry or needed to be changed. After all, you had to signal your caretakers somehow about your needs. You also felt joy, and knew how to laugh. But your homeostatic state of being, that place you always returned to when you weren’t experiencing those highs or lows, was peace and balance.
I want to help you get back to that state. Because you are now older, and have experienced a lot of what the world is going to throw at you, it’s time to reconnect with that place inside that isn’t suffering, you deserve peace and balance. There will always be challenges, but just as hard as life can be, there needs to be times when it’s easy too. Or at least, those few minutes where taking it easy can make all the difference in the world.
So, that’s why we’re here today. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, but the trick is to know which suffering is self-induced, and which is out of our control. End the suffering, and the peace and balance return to their rightful place inside of you. By the end of the episode, you’ll learn what it takes to step out of suffering, and one step closer to that peace and balanced state.
It’s going to be tougher for some of you, because there are those of you that have built up a whole lifetime’s worth of unbalance. Whether you’re just making ends meet, or have everything you ever wanted but are still unhappy. Years of unbalance or even a moment of misery can change your entire perspective of life. And as long as you are carrying that perspective forward into every new situation, the peace may never come.
So what I really want you to gain today is a new perspective, a new outlook on old problems, and a fresh view on what differentiates suffering, from pain and discomfort.
How does that sound?
It’s actually really difficult to talk about this topic for me, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s difficult, because I don’t like to suffer and therefore find ways to end the suffering in my life.
So most of time, I don’t suffer, and do live in peace and balance. That’s not to say that I’ve eliminated it altogether, but since I love closure, and can’t stand when anything that makes me feel bad lingers, I go inward and explore my suffering and try to understand it.
When I meet new people and we get into this subject, they typically don’t believe me because “everyone suffers” to some extent. I don’t disagree. Many belief systems tell us that we are born into suffering.
However, I feel a little differently about that. I think we are born into sensory experience and ignorance. We have no idea what’s going on in the world, so we have no way to relate to it or make sense of it. So we rely on everything we can experience with our senses: Our touch, our sight, our hearing, taste and smell. And when we get an uncomfortable sensation, like hunger pains, or the pain from touching a hot stove, we experience a signal from our nervous system, which is expressed in different ways like crying or our body tightening up.
I remember I dropped a ceramic flower pot on my big toe once. It landed right on top of the nail. I’m a tall guy, so this ten pound flower pot fell about four or five feet. It slipped out of my hands, and fortunately, did not break because my big toe took the full brunt of downward force. Well, fortunate for the flower pot. But for my toe? The pain was excruciating.
I think it took a second to register, but when it came, it was intense.
Now when we’re children and something like that happens, we typically cry. We didn’t want it to happen, and we don’t like pain, and we haven’t learned the full boundaries of the pain we can possibly feel in life, so we burst into tears and cry. We also usually call for someone to comfort us and make the pain go away. Crying is also a way that we got our caretakers to respond to us, so it had multiple purposes.
But, as an adult, depending on how bad the pain is, we can usually reserve ourselves enough so that we don’t add the drama that sometimes occurs with pain. I don’t mean to downplay pain, but there are times when we want a little extra attention to perhaps get that comforting feeling we got from our caretakers when we were kids, so we might add some drama like, “Ohhhh, it hurts so much!”
But, besides screaming a curse word or two, I didn’t necessarily go all dramatic after the flower pot hit my toe. I did however experience intense pain. In fact, that pain didn’t go away for about 6 months. It was a challenge to wear shoes, and a bigger challenge to walk in them. After the first day I hit my toe, the intensity of the pain wasn’t as bad, but it was still there and still very painful.
I remember exactly where it was in my apartment, it was after I just came in from the balcony. Isn’t it funny how we remember the exact moment some things happen in our life? This was one of those moments. And right after it happened, all I wanted to do was cry. But something inside me stopped me. I don’t think I prevented myself from crying because I was embarrassed, I think I didn’t cry, because after thinking about it for a couple of seconds, I realized it was unnecessary.
I’m not saying I haven’t cried because of pain before, but I have noticed that as I’ve gotten older, crying doesn’t seem like part of the pain process anymore. It’s how we respond, and what belief we carry about pain that causes us to suffer in life. Sometimes we may add drama to the pain, when drama isn’t necessarily needed.
Again, pain can feel so intense, that crying and screaming will occur whether we want to or not We will typically do these things when something is out of our control. If I dropped one pot on one toe, then another pot on another toe, then another and another, I would truly suffer, and would likely scream and cry until I was exhausted.
But I dropped one. And even though the pain was extreme, and there was a brief moment where I wanted to cry and express my pain and suffering to the world, I chose not to. It wasn’t suppressing, it was a moment of clarity where I thought, “Wait, this hurts like hell, and I may need to scream from the pain, but do I have to? Or, is it just drama?”
If you hear me mention drama a few times during this episode, it’s because drama is part of the suffering process. Pain is real, and we are hardwired to experience it. Suffering is real, because sometimes the pain is so intense, we feel like yelling and screaming and crying in an effort to release it from our body. But drama isn’t necessary, and is usually our ego trying to get comfort and attention from those around us.
This episode may push a few buttons, but I’m willing to take that chance if it means you will start feeling better because of it. Let’s see where we go with this, shall we?
It’s important to realize the difference between pain and suffering, and how adding drama can intensify and prolong the suffering. We can extend our own suffering by our drama, and our mindset.
When you recite the same old stories of your suffering, you prolong your suffering.
So let’s get on the same page with my definitions of pain, suffering and drama, just so you don’t think I’m heartless when I downplay suffering in some parts.
Pain is the body’s way of signaling to us that something is wrong so that we can correct it. Whether it’s a paper cut, broken bone, a disease, or any of a number of things that goes against the body’s normal way of functioning.
Suffering is our interpretation of the pain and how it affects our life. Suffering is how we express the pain, whether through our thoughts, words, or actions. It is the mental process of pain. In other words, pain is what hurts, suffering is when our thoughts are focused on how much that pain hurts.
Then there’s drama. Drama is probably not the best word, but I’m going to use it anyway because I want it to be memorable. Drama is a particular response to the pain and suffering. Drama is when you overemphasize the pain to other people in order to get attention. You may not be aware that that’s what you’re doing. In other words, you may not be conscious that the emphasis you are giving to your pain is actually you being dramatic.
When my toe finally stopped hurting from dropping a flower pot on it, I started being dramatic about it. I would tell people, “Oh God, it was terrible. You should have seen it.” It was the story my ego wanted to tell.
When you want others to sympathize with you, that is typically your ego looking to be nurtured. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if it helps you feel better, then some comforting words from a friend can help alleviate the suffering, and sometimes even the pain. But if you are always expressing the same story of suffering over and over again to that friend or multiple people, that is crossing into drama.
So why all the emphasis on drama? Because drama is the story we give to our suffering. Drama is what we attach to the suffering in order to get attention. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tell your story. After all, you need to tell your story to people that can help heal you and make you feel better.
But I am saying when you tell your story for what I consider to be a “quick high”, it’s almost like an addiction. Some smokers will feel pain or anguish come along and grab a cigarette, because they know the chemicals and tobacco in cigarettes will ease their symptoms. A person with a victim mentality may use drama as their drug of choice for that quick high.
Almost all of us have done this actually. Have you ever told a story of something that happened to you that you exaggerated slightly or more? Or, even if you didn’t exaggerate, you dramatized to evoke an emotional response from the listener?
For example, when I lived in Florida, my mom and stepfather came down for a visit. My mom asked me to drive us all to the restaurant in her car. Well, I saw a police car up ahead in a turn lane. It had its lights on, so I slowed down in caution. However, the person behind me didn’t slow at all. In fact, I think he might have been driving with his eyes closed because before we knew it, he smashed into the back of us. Everyone was alright, but it did shake us up quite a bit.
Now, when I told that story to you just now, it was pretty matter of fact. There was some exaggeration and assumptions, but nothing too dramatic.
However several years ago when I repeated that same story to other people, I would say it this way:
My parents came down for a visit and wanted me to drive their car to the restaurant because my stepfather was so drunk he could barely stand. Well, while driving, I saw that a cop was up the road with his lights on. So I slowed down. I mean, I didn’t slam on my brakes or anything, I just slowed down normally. But out of nowhere, this pickup truck smashes into the back of our car, bucking us forward really fast. At that moment, I screamed the F word. I was so surprised that I swore in front of my mother for the third time ever in my life. I was shocked, and still remember it like it was yesterday.
As you can tell, the second story had more emphasis and emotion. I purposefully dramatized it so that I could elicit a reaction out of the person listening. It was a fun way to get them involved in the story. However, notice what I was doing. My actual intention by dramatizing the story was to elicit a reaction out of the other person. Also, I was recalling the actual emotions I felt during that moment in time, as if I were re-living the moment all over again.
This is what happens when we dramatize our suffering. Not only are we pulling other people into our suffering, but we are re-igniting our own suffering by keeping it alive through story. I’ve been at gatherings with people where almost everyone is enjoying themselves. They’re talking, laughing, and sometimes even having a little fun at each other’s expense. Then, there’s that one person that every time they talk, they bring the energy of the room down a little.
It’s the energy vampire you hear about. They can suck joy and happiness from the room with their stories of suffering. If something great happened to you, something terrible happened to them. They live in the past, and tell people how bad their life is because of all the things that have happened to them. They are the quintessential victim, always ready to spread the drama whenever they get a chance.
I’ve heard this mentality even in passing. I was behind a guy in line at the grocery store once. The cashier asked him, “How’s your day?”, and the guy said, “Eh, sucks. But what can you do?”
The cashier was like, “Oh, sorry about that.” I just watched her energy drain. He sucked her into that moment with him.
Then when it was my turn, and she asked how my day was, I was like, “It’s great!” and she smiled. I thought this was a much better conversation than her last one.
I don’t know his story, but I’m willing to bet he dramatizes his suffering to a lot of people. And by doing so, he gets that quick high like the smoker. It’s that mindset of, ‘if someone else commiserates with me, then at least I’m not alone in my suffering’. It feeds into the suffering, because it re-ignites it.
There’s more to this. It’s not just all about the drama. But a lot of it is. Suffering is real. I did it for 15 years with sciatic nerve pain. Well, let me correct that, I felt the pain of sciatica for 15 years. My mental state was heavily affected by it. A negative mental state that develops from our pain is our suffering. It is the thoughts we have about the pain that creates our suffering. Pain is pain. It can last for years, and it can sometimes be brutal. But pain is pain, and suffering is suffering.
Pain is the physical sensation, suffering is the mental result of the pain. Suffering is thinking about our pain.
Suffering is sometimes mistaken as pain. But, I’m purposefully separating pain from suffering because in order to end any suffering that you have, the first step in doing so is separating pain from suffering.
The path to inner peace is knowing there’s a difference. When you adopt a philosophy that there’s a difference between pain and suffering, you start to suffer less as a result. Prolonged pain can lead to unwanted thoughts and emotions, which is what makes up suffering, but it’s the thoughts and emotions that need to be tweaked in order to come to a place of peace inside yourself so that suffering can decrease, and you can start to feel better.
So I’ve been talking and repeating myself a lot, but I have a purpose I promise. Let’s get into some of the steps you can take to lower, or even eliminate any suffering that you may be experiencing.
Remember I said I’d push a few of your buttons? Have I done so yet? I know there are people listening right now just yelling at their player saying, “Suffering is real! I have this pain, or that disease, or childhood trauma” or any of a number of things that are truly creating a struggle in their life.
And let me say this, I will never know your pain as well as you do. And I am not here to downplay your suffering. But I do want you to ask yourself that, if you really believe you are suffering, do you want to stop?
And if you do want to stop suffering, will you be open to ideas that may oppose what you believe now?
Some people have debilitating pain that may last the rest of their lives. I realize this. And if you are in this situation, I know life is challenging for you. The pain you have is genuine, no denying. But here’s where I want to take you… I want to take you to the first step in ending suffering and moving towards inner peace. And that step is Acceptance.
First and foremost, you must accept that what’s happening is real, and will never end. Yes, you heard me right, I want you to accept that what you are facing right now, will never end.
Why would I tell you to do such a thing? The real reason is that most people believe that their suffering will never end anyways, but most people also have trouble accepting that their suffering will never end.
I want you to accept that your suffering will never end. Because if you accept this, it will actually release the resistance to your suffering.
And resistance is one of the biggest amplifiers to suffering.
Suffering grows stronger when you resist acceptance of your suffering.
Resistance to a thing, gives power to a thing. Resistance to accepting that your suffering will never end gives power to the suffering. It makes it stronger. The suffering increases and you feel worse, because you can’t believe it’s not over. You wonder why it’s happening to you and try to think of ways you can eliminate it. But first and foremost, you’ve probably not taken the first step to alleviate your suffering.
Yes, alleviate it. And that is to accept that it will never go away.
And by accepting that your suffering will never disappear, it loses power. It decreases in intensity. It has no choice, because most of the energy behind your suffering had to do with you not accepting that your suffering will never end.
This is why many people that suffer, continue to do so, sometimes for the rest of their lives. By not accepting suffering will never end, they continue to suffer. By accepting that suffering will never end, it alleviates it.
This is backwards thinking to a lot of people. But, if you truly adopt it, you’ve taken a huge leap towards inner peace.
Acceptance is giving in, not giving up.
Acceptance is allowing something to be. Have you ever wanted for someone to accept you just as you are? I’m probably correct in saying that your answer is something close to “Hell yes!” ha ha. Well, what happens inside you when I say this:
I accept you for exactly who you are, what you choose to do with your life, and whatever decisions you’ve made throughout your life. I accept you and honor your journey.
How does that feel? If you’re like me, that feels really good to hear. After all, how many times do we hear that from people? My guess is, not a lot.
But you know what you feel when you hear it. It’s that positive, wonderful, unconditional love that we all want from others. So be that way with your pain and suffering. Accept it as it is. This is a vital first step, because it dissolves your resistance to it. And once your resistance is dissolved, it opens the door for suffering to disappear.
That’s step 1. If you need to sit with it a while before moving on, now’s your chance. Otherwise, stick around, and we’ll get into the next step. Inner peace is inching its way closer and closer.
Remembering that suffering is the mental process that occurs because of pain, also remember that acceptance is a mental process. I’m not asking you to climb a really big mountain or do anything that might be physically challenging. All I’m asking is that you use your mind to alter your perceptions a little bit.
Isn’t it interesting that a simple change in thought decreases suffering? A simple shift in the way we think alters how much we suffer. That is a concept that can be quite foreign to some people, because there are those that identify and relate pain to suffering. Well, they do relate, but I’m talking about an intimate connection between pain and suffering where one can’t exist without the other.
One of the first things I wanted you to do was separate those two into separate processes. Pain is a signal, suffering is a mindset. Some people believe that ongoing pain is suffering, but by just adopting that ongoing pain is, well, just ongoing pain. And suffering is something that we manually attach to pain, we can start to alleviate the suffering.
Pain is pain, as I’ve said. Pain hurts, there’s no question. When you feel pain, you might need a doctor, or rest, or a better diet, or medication, or whatever it takes. Pain is no fun, and is very real.
Let me dramatize my previous pain, I suffered for 15 years with sciatic nerve pain. This was a pain that started at the bottom of my spine and went down my leg, all the way to my ankle. There were some days I could barely walk. And flying on a plane was always extremely uncomfortable because I could never move. It was awful!
Dramatization over. Ha ha! Pain leads to suffering, which can lead to the dramatic stories we tell to others. But breaking the chain that pain leads to suffering is what I’m trying to convey. Breaking the attachment that pain has with suffering will remove some of the obstacles in the path to inner peace.
Another part of removing those obstacles is step 2 in the process of ending suffering, and that is bringing presence to the now.
If you read Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual teachers, you will hear the terms “present moment” and “the now”, in relation to alleviating stress and eliminating suffering. It took a long, stressful journey before I finally understood what those terms meant. I think it’s because I’ve never been able to do this process mentally, only physically.
In other words, I can’t just think about being present. Because using my brain doesn’t really bring me into the present moment. Eckhart teaches that it’s not about thought, it’s about no thought. Alright, no thought. That was even harder. How do you get to no thought?
Everything I kept reading and learning about the present moment and being in “the now” would never really bring me into the now. Actually, I felt present when I listened to Eckhart speak, because he has such a soothing and low-key voice. But after that, I would come back to “reality” and not be so present anymore.
So I realized that the only way I was achieving presence was by listening to Eckhart Tolle. ha ha, that wasn’t very helpful because I wanted to feel it anytime I wanted, not just when I had a video or audio player nearby.
But after a year or so, I finally figured out the best way to be present. This has been the most effective, most enlightening method for me. There are actually two methods, both of which I’ll share with you now. You may have heard me speak of these before, but they are definitely worth hearing about again because they are so powerful, even in their simplicity.
Both methods I’ve combined. And the first is to focus only on your 5 senses. What do you hear right now? What do you see? What do you taste? What can you feel on your body right now? What do you smell?
And the second method is, when something stimulates one of your senses, pretend you’ve never experienced that particular stimulant ever. If you smell something in the air, pretend you don’t know what it is, as if you were a child smelling it for the first time. What does it do to your body? How does it make you feel? Steer your thoughts forward, doing your best not to go back in time thinking about previous times you smelled something similar.
Or, what do you hear right now? Is it just my voice, or is something else in the background? Is it a hum, or a breeze, or an occasional chirp or bark. When you’re focusing in on the sounds around you, keep them outside of your mind, and only listen as if you were hearing for the first time. Like you’ve never heard sound before, and you were mystified by what you’re experiencing.
The same goes with every sensory experience you have. Pay attention to your senses. They are the path to what’s happening in the now. Right here, right now, you are focused on what’s outside of you. You are present. You have arrived.
This is where there is no past, no future, only now. This is how you find peace in a moment. This is where you go when you need to step away from things for awhile.
The more you practice this, the faster you can create these moments of presence. The more presence you practice, the more aware you are of your own consciousness. We tend to get bogged down in what’s going to happen in the future, or what happened in the past. All these things that cloud our mind that we obligate ourselves to worrying about.
Worrying about the past causes depression, worrying about the future causes anxiety. Worrying about the Now causes action. Because if something is happening right now, right in front of you, you either take action or you run. Well, you could ignore it, but let’s just say something that needed your attention was happening right now, you’d stop whatever you were doing and take action on it. If an elderly person was starting to lose his or her balance, you’d probably do everything you could to save them from falling.
This is also being present. But there’s another lesson here too, and it’s what we’re going to talk about next.
The elderly person starts to lose their balance, you drop your bag of groceries and keep them from falling. They say, “Thank you so much. That would have been painful.” You feel relieved that you were there to help them. It was an event happening in the present moment, right now. You took action, and basically resolved the problem. Or, what could have been a big problem.
This directly ties into the next step in ending suffering, which is:
Don’t let things linger
I say this over and over again throughout my shows. The mind loves closure. When there’s a problem in your life, waiting for it to be resolved is what causes struggle and resistance. When you let things linger, and never take action to resolve what’s open in your life, the mind stays in that waiting state. Waiting for relief, but never relieved. Waiting for the right time, but that time never comes. Waiting and waiting.
When I was married, I remember waiting a year before I finally talked to my wife about her getting a job. I resisted, I struggled, and I tried to deny that I was upset about it, so I kept it in day after day. It made being with her difficult, because I voluntarily held back the truth, which was that I wanted her to find work to help contribute to the household. It wasn’t an unreasonable request. And when I finally told her, she even agreed that it wasn’t unreasonable, but I waited so long, and it destroyed me inside. Well, not destroyed, but I felt pretty bad because I held onto it. I let it linger. The loop opened with the thought that I needed her to find work, but it never closed because I never shared it with her. Until I closed it that one day.
Our minds need closure. They need to know the answer, or figure out a problem, or know what happens next after the movie ends.
What’s left open in your life? I’m talking about the things you don’t want to face, like confronting someone, or dealing with something you don’t want to deal with. I realize some things take time, for sure. Like selling your house, you have to wait for an offer. Sure, you’re anticipating the first offer, but it’s still a waiting game. These are normal events for this kind of circumstance. But what about a job offer that someone told you they were going to call you about two days ago?
Do you think, “Should I call them? Should I wait? Would it be rude if I called?”? There’s a lot of internal dialogue that goes on, but really, all you need to do is take action in your life. Call and find out. If it’s good news, great! If it’s not, even better! At least you can move on with your life.
I don’t think I shared this about my divorce, but if I did, oh well, it’s fitting anyway. About one week after my then wife told me she was no longer in love with me, I started the process of filing for divorce. Even though it was absolutely something I didn’t want. I loved her and wanted to stay married. I never wanted a divorce! But she wasn’t in love with me anymore.
After a week of being really down, I got back up. I knew that the fastest way to heal from this was to get it over with as soon as possible. Even though she wanted to split up, she was even surprised I went the divorce route so quickly. I told her, “If there really is no chance for us, I am not going to prolong this suffering. I am going to end it as soon as possible. I don’t want to go through months of wishful thinking and false hope. I’d rather stick the proverbial knife in now, and get it over with than to think about it for weeks or months, worrying and being sick over it. I know that it is going to be painful, and I definitely don’t want to do it. But, I also know it’s the fastest path to healing and moving on with my life.”
So I did. I filed for divorce. The papers came. They were thoroughly confusing, and I went through a lot of pain and sadness, but I eventually managed to get through it. I also uprooted myself from Portland, Oregon and took a 3300 mile road trip to New Hampshire.
Within a span of two months, I filed for divorce, moved out of the condo I was renting in Oregon, drove my cat, myself, and what little I owned to New Hampshire, and moved in with family. The final papers for my divorce arrived about a month and a half later. And it was over.
It was extremely painful, but the process was over. And I got to start my healing. Not because I wanted to move on in life without her, but because I wanted to be there for me. Which is related to where I’m going next.
The title of today’s episode is “Ending Suffering and Moving Towards Inner Peace”. I didn’t realize it until now, but notice what I am really saying is that I want you to move away from suffering, and move towards inner peace. I just had an episode on the away from and towards strategies we use in life, and how that affects our entire perception of things, let alone the decisions we make in life.
During my divorce, I felt two distinct motivations going on at once, and the title of this episode says it all. I wanted to move away from suffering and move towards inner peace. I wanted to end this pain, and find pleasure again.
Motivation comes from your desire to move towards you want or away from something you don’t want. If you find yourself suffering, which direction are you moving? Are moving towards something you want? Or away from something you don’t want?
If you’ve been suffering a while, try switching it around. If you’ve been motivated by your desire to move away from something you don’t want in your life, then figure out what you do want, and move towards that instead. And vice versa if it’s the opposite.
The reason is, once you make this small shift in your mindset, all your decisions come from a different place. You are motivated by different things. You start moving in a direction that is unfamiliar, bringing you new experiences. It takes you out of a rut.
I did this just recently with my mindset on money. As soon as I switched from moving away from poverty to moving towards that house on the lake, I started receiving paying gigs for reading audiobooks. I made the decision to write my own books. I’ve had people reach out to me wanting to partner up in projects. So many good things have come my way from a tiny shift in my motivation.
Are you motivated to move away from something you don’t want, or towards something you want? If what you’re doing now isn’t working, switch it around and see what happens. This isn’t a direct path to inner peace, but if you’re going in the wrong direction, it can prevent you from ever reaching that place.
And remember that this strategy doesn’t have to be permanent. I moved away from poverty for years until I realized it was now time to move towards prosperity. You can switch it around anytime you need to. Once you find what works, stick with it until it wears out its welcome.
Alright, let’s get a little deeper now. Breathe in… breathe out… I’m about to tell you why suffering continues and how to let it all go once and for all
Eckhart Tolle says that those who suffer are more likely to experience a spiritual awakening. In his case, he was in the throes of depression, and even considered suicide. So one night his inner pain got so bad, he experienced something that he explains as an awakening. This is the moment where he let go of all his pain completely.
It was so surprising to him, that he immediately got a notepad and started writing what he was experiencing down on paper, just in case he lost it.
But, he didn’t lose it. It stayed with him. What happened?
If you haven’t heard the episode Letting Go of Attachments, Part 1, I recommend you listen to that where I tell my story of how my car broke down in the middle of Arizona, 1000 miles from home. In short, I panicked and a part of me died. Not physically, but psychologically. My spiritual awakening occurred when both my car and I had a break down.
I won’t get into the whole story again, but my anxiety and panic finally popped. I found out what it was like when what you fear is going to happen, happens. My anxiety built up to panic built up to an overload, and into awakening.
And that day, I let go of attachments. It was the experience I needed to have in order to ascend into peace. The very things that I feared losing were exactly what I let go of easily that day.
My overload caused me to pop, and I came to an acceptance of losing everything. I was once attached to everything I owned, then a minute later, I wasn’t attached to anything. Ever since that day, stress, anxiety, panic and fear washed away.
The worst case scenario must be faced head on, and experienced fully in order to break out of the cycle of suffering. Not always, of course. Because if you can genuinely, fully accept your suffering will never go away, it has a very similar outcome.
The problem almost all of us have at one time (or many times) in our life, is that we don’t want to know what’s behind the door. We don’t want to know what’s beyond our anxiety, or what’s beyond our panic. We think it’s more suffering. We think there’s something much worse when it gets to that point.
But the final stage of suffering is full release of suffering. The hard part is that we don’t want to feel any worse than we feel now. We want to move away from suffering so we don’t have to feel it anymore. But this causes resistance inside of us, creating more suffering. We resist what we don’t want in our lives, giving it power and sometimes making it even stronger.
The whole time I resisted letting go of my wife, I felt more pain. The more I resisted it, the more pain I felt. Then I wrote her a letter telling her how mad I was. But before I sent it, I rewrote it, and I wasn’t so mad anymore. Then, I rewrote it one more time, not really angry at all, but instead, taking responsibility for my role in the downfall of our marriage. I also told her I am letting her go.
Again, something I did not want to do, just like the divorce. I did not want to get a divorce, but I made it happen. I did not want to let her go, but I knew that by keeping in touch with her in any way only prolonged my agony. So I built up the courage, and told her something I didn’t want to tell her, that I don’t want to know her anymore.
We disconnected completely. She wanted to stay friends and stay in touch, but that was painful for me, at the same time, giving me false hope. So in every way, we disconnected. And I haven’t heard from her since. It was painful, sad, and absolutely the turning point of my pain. I went from lonely and sad, to hopeful for the future, and optimistic.
The worst case scenario, faced head on, is a way to break a pattern of suffering. Most people won’t do it, but it can free you from the suffering. It doesn’t mean it’s going to free you from every kind of suffering there is, but even if it doesn’t, when you experience the worst it can get, the rest of the time won’t seem as bad.
Suffering continues because you don’t want it to get worse. Suffering is prolonged because you want it to stop. You remember when I talked about my bad dreams in a previous episode right? I decided that instead of fearing my bad dreams night after night, I was going to beg for them to be the absolute worst dreams imaginable. I had suffered for a long time with these nightmares and would wake up with anxiety. I finally told, I don’t know, God, the Universe, my unconscious mind, to bring it on and give me the worst you got.
And I went to bed, literally hoping for the worst possible dreams ever. I figured, “If I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll submit and just face all my fear.” And those dreams never returned. When I finally came to an acceptance that I would have bad dreams forever. They mysteriously disappeared.
What was that all about?
It was the acceptance of suffering, letting go of resistance, a “bring it on” attitude, and a whole lotta “I don’t give a crap anymore”.
And what used to bother me, just stopped.
Let’s end this segment with something that we always hear that we should do, but probably don’t do enough of in our life, and that’s meditation.
Now, I’m not going to recommend you meditate. I’m not! That is a personal choice, and you may or may not have time to do it. But I am going to give you an easy way to meditate, even if just for a minute, and why you absolutely must do it. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t recommend it, but I didn’t say I wouldn’t require you to do it. Ha ha, but I’ll make it easy.
First off, let me say this, I hardly meditate anymore. I know that’s a tad hypocritical, but I’ll tell you why. When you can get to a point in your life where you close your eyes and can think of nothing, you can meditate for 30 seconds and feel like you’ve just meditated for an hour.
I can stop anywhere and close my eyes and just pay attention to my senses, and my mind goes blank. I find instant peace this way.
Now, did you notice what I did there? I’m talking about something I’ve already talked about: Paying attention to your senses. The present moment. That is a meditation too. This is the reason I don’t really meditate anymore, because I feel like I walk around in meditation all the time. I stay present as much as I can.
And I’m going to teach you a couple things you can do to help you get to this place too.
If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend you go somewhere by yourself that’s quiet and you won’t be disturbed. Or, at least free of people. Nature is always a neat place to do this. If you can’t find any place like that, then do it late at night in your home when everyone else, if you live with others, is asleep.
Now, in this quiet place, focus on your external senses, especially your ears and your skin. Keep your focus there and hear what you hear, and feel what you feel. And as you do this, if any thoughts come to mind, just allow them to be, but re-focus back to those two senses. Add smell if you want also. Focus on these senses and keep your focus there.
Don’t judge anything you smell, or feel, or hear, unless it’s important. But just pay attention as if you are simply testing your senses to find out how well they work. How well you can hear, distinguishing the sounds from each other. How well you can feel, the difference between a light breeze or a heavy breeze. Or even the feeling of your clothes against your skin, or the surface under your feet or your back. You are just observing, not judging what you observe.
What do you smell, what are the different smells? Think of how a dog can smell many times more scents and farther away, and adjust your nose to see if you can do the same. A cat can hear many times more sound than a human. Tune your ears as if you could hear like a cat.
And your skin can be more sensitive. Focus on a part of your body and see if you can sense what your skin feels like on that part of your body.
These are all things you can practice in just a minute or two. The sensation is freeing. It frees you from attachments, worries, and sometimes even physical pain. Do this once for 30 seconds, then again and again throughout the day and week.
When you master this, you will bring that presence with you everywhere you go. It will always be there. What once worried you doesn’t seem so bad anymore. When you spend less time in your mind, you become less worried or anxious about what’s in your mind.
And that’s the last thing I want to talk about is what is in your mind. Do you realize that whenever you occupy your mind, you block other thoughts from coming up? If you have any negative, repressed thoughts, they will try to reveal themselves to be processed and released. But turning on the TV, or getting online, or listening to a podcast, may actually prevent you from releasing those thoughts.
For example, after this episode ends, you may have something come up. And when it does, will you explore it right then and there, or will you go to the next thing and block it? I’m not saying that everything I say will work for you, but when an unexpressed thought comes to my mind, I stop what I’m doing and ask myself, “What’s this?”
I want to know what’s coming up. I want to experience it. I want to endure the pain, if it’s painful. Because every time I do, I am one step closer to releasing it.
Don’t prolong your suffering by avoiding it, or resisting it. I know you hear a theme in this episode, but hearing it over and over again is sometimes the best way to adopt it into your reality.
Resistance to a thing gives power to a thing, and prolongs its existence indefinitely.
Your thoughts are powerful. You know they are, because they dictate how you feel and what you do. Your thoughts are the building blocks to your life. You have a thought, you take action or you don’t. But it starts with a thought.
Every thought you have is a window into the deepest part of you. Allow them all to come up and be recognized. I practiced something I never tried the other night. I welcomed every thought that came to mind. It was sort of a meditation. I laid in bed, and let my mind dig up whatever it wanted to. As a thought came up, I said, “I welcome you”. Every thought, “I welcome you”.
It was an experiment. I wanted to know if I had any resistance to my own thoughts. It may sound strange, but I wanted to know if there was a part of me blocking my thoughts from coming up. I figured if I welcomed all of them, no matter how bizarre or “bad” they were, then even the most unusual ones would come out of hiding. There were some interesting thoughts that came up.
I got interrupted so I couldn’t finish the process. But I enjoyed it and may give it a go again just because I am always curious about what’s in there. And let’s end this segment right there, with curiosity.
Let’s summarize what we talked about today, just as a quick review.
Suffering is our interpretation of pain and how it affects our life. It’s is how and what we think of pain. Suffering doesn’t have to be a way of life, it can be a choice. Remember that when we recite our same old stories of suffering, we actually prolong our suffering.
Drama is when you overemphasize the pain to other people in order to gain attention. It’s okay if you need sympathy, or are seeking help or support from others. But when you repeat your stories over and over, just getting that “quick high” from people, you are being dramatic. It’s almost an addiction. You get a burst of “feel good” by getting the attention from someone, then when you need that feel good feeling again, you tell your story again.
Repeating your story of suffering prolongs your suffering. Drama is like the allure of gossip. Once you have a good story, you want to tell everyone you know. Just remember the consequences if your story is a re-telling of your suffering.
Accepting that your suffering will last forever will allow it to dissipate and maybe even disappear. Resistance to suffering strengthens it. But accepting that suffering is never ending, is the first step to ending it.
It’s backwards. It’s strange. But it works because if you still suffer, it’s a way you probably haven’t considered thinking before. Again, there is real suffering in the world, and you may be experiencing it, but remember that accepting that it will always be here is an important step to letting it go.
It doesn’t mean that you actually will suffer forever, it’s just a shift in perspective to help you get to an ascended level of thought.
Acceptance is giving in, not giving up.
Separate pain and suffering. Treat them as two entirely different processes. Pain is a signal, suffering is a mindset. Whether you believe that to be true or not, make it true to help you diminish the suffering.
Suffering is something we typically attach to pain. But break the chain that ‘pain leads to suffering’. Separating them will remove some of the obstacles to inner peace.
Learn to be present. You can do this by focusing on your external senses. Focus outside your mind and on your senses like your eyes, ears, and skin. When you sense something, observe it as if you’ve never experienced it before. Don’t judge what you’re experiencing unless it’s important and needs attention, just observe like a scientist learns all about a specimen. It’s curiosity that develops. It’s a meditation that results.
There is no past and no future when you do this, only now. And 30 seconds at a time is all it takes. If you want to do it for longer periods of time, then the benefit will only be more well-being.
Don’t let things linger. Brian Tracey wrote the book, “Eat That Frog: 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” If you typically let things linger, then get this book. The most important lesson in it is the metaphor of eating a frog. It sounds unpleasant, I know, but by doing what’s unpleasant first, the rest of your day goes great. Like, making that phone call you absolutely don’t want to make. You can either get through it and get it done, or let it linger all day long, worrying about it and ruining everything else you do in the day.
Close the loop, don’t let things linger. Eat that frog, and get it done. The faster it’s done, the faster and more clear your path to inner peace.
What motivation strategy are you using? Are you moving away from what you don’t want, or towards something you want? Or, are you moving away from pain, or towards pleasure? If you’re suffering now, reverse your strategy and try that for a while. Focus on the opposite of what you’ve been doing, and every decision you make and action step you take will come from an entirely different mindset, changing your life.
Let the overload happen! If you are fearful, step into your fear. Of course, I can’t advise you to go against what any doctor tells you, I can only tell you what happened to me. When I stepped into my panic and anxiety, and fully experienced the worst case scenario, the negativity popped, and I experienced an awakening. It was that “bring it on” attitude, where it got so bad, the bad disappeared.
We tend to avoid all the hurt and pain in our life, but by doing so, we miss the opportunity to let it all go. It’s not easy, and if you feel that you may be a tad unstable to do this, then don’t do it. It does take courage to pull through this, so when you’re ready, and the courage arrives, you may be able to face it head on until it builds so much it can no longer sustain itself, and disappears.
The final stage of suffering is full release of suffering. We usually don’t want to experience any more suffering, so we tend to block it and avoid it at all costs. We could be one step away from releasing it, but we instead turn away from it. Suffering continues because you want it to stop. But sometimes getting in the thick of it, makes it disappear.
And finally, your thoughts are powerful. They are the building blocks to your life. Everything starts with a thought, and when you can change just a thought or two, your whole life can change. Suffering is a thought process.
When you take this in, and really understand that suffering is negative thoughts about pain, then you can separate pain from suffering and clear your path to inner peace.
For 6 months, my toe hurt so badly, it hurt to wear shoes and walk around. Every now and then I’d have to tell someone about it. I wouldn’t get emotional when I told the story, I would just say something like, “Yeah, I dropped a flower pot on my toe. It’s hurts pretty bad.”
My toenail got black and eventually, well, just in case you’re eating, I’ll stop there. Otherwise, after the severe pain went away, there was still the residual pain that kept recurring. Even a year and a half later, I still had an awareness of that pain in my toe. The pain wasn’t really there, but I was aware of that area, as if the pain were still there. It’s hard to explain, but I’m sure you can relate. It’s that memory of something you have a hard time forgetting because it was so powerful. It was like the pain itself was a memory, and that by thinking about it, I could actually start feeling the pain again.
Still, after 6 months, it was all but gone. But that’s when the drama started. The drama was when I recalled that event and told it to others. Every time someone talked about something they suffered through, I would pull the one-up game and say, “Oh, I know what you mean. One time, I dropped this heavy pot on my toe and…” then I would continue telling the story with all the emotion and drama from that moment.
It wasn’t until the pain was gone, when I started actually sharing and exaggerating about the past by overstating what happened with my emotions. I made it sound just as bad as I could, by saying things like, “Oh my God it was the worst pain in the world. I couldn’t walk for 6 months!”
I would see the expressions on other people’s faces and realize they were feeling sympathetic, and sometimes empathetic with my situation. They would be drawn into the story, reliving it with me… Reliving the moment, and re-living suffering.
Re-living suffering! Suffering that I didn’t really experience, but now I was generating it in my story to get attention and to make people, I don’t know, I guess, like me.
You ever do that? Tell someone something in hopes they relate and bond with you in some way? I have. Plenty of times. And I’ve noticed that people tend to bond with others more strongly when there’s a shared suffering.
I don’t know for how many years after that I told my toe story, but I’m sure I did quite a few. The amount of attention you get from sharing the stories about your suffering can be addictive sometimes, because you feel like the center of attention; Like you have something that others like, and they want to be around you.
Don’t misunderstand me. I share many stories of the suffering I’ve experienced, but it’s no longer about the drama and hoping you’ll like me. It’s about learning and growing through the trials of life – the challenges that come our way.
Absolutely share your story of suffering with others, because that is how others know they are not alone, and know that you are coming from a place of honesty. Just do it with the intention of helping and showing that you care. If you start retelling your story of suffering, ask yourself if the story you’re telling is really necessary for others to hear, or if it’s a way to get attention for some reason. Whether from some insecurity, of some other reason.
When you let go of your attachment to your stories, suffering becomes more of a choice than ever before. There’ll always be suffering in many forms, you just need to choose how you want to experience the world. Do you want to recall the misery and keep drawing others into that story, or is that something you can let go now?
I always believe in expressing one’s truest self, and releasing any repressed emotions, so absolutely cry and scream or say what you need to say, but try not to do it for the sake of fulfilling the sometimes egoic need for attention. I guarantee, once you stop telling stories, and start digging in a little deeper to express your truths, your suffering will start to dissolve moment by moment.
All the pain and suffering that happens in life can sometimes seem to have no meaning. It’s when we choose to live in the suffering where we are too clouded to see the meaning. When my sister first heard my show, she said, “Do you realize how your suffering is changing the world?”
I never thought of it like that. I suffered, and the world learns from it. I realize there’s religious symbolism in there, but we’ve all suffered through something, and I want you to know there is meaning in all suffering. It’s harder to see it, when you’re in it. But once you’re out, your journey is just beginning.
I believe in you. You are worthy and can do anything you decide to do. The light inside you shines brightly, and when you see you as I see you, you’ll soon realize the truth, that you are amazing.
Resources for today’s episode:
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
Great episode, amazing insights into how to move your thoughts (and subsequently feelings) towards more peace. Love your experiment with welcoming your thoughts, no matter what they are, I’m going to try that. I’ve come to experience the same with meditation, I can return to my center and peace by closing my eyes for a mini meditation. It’s very helpful and fun to pivot if and when necessary. And thanks so much for the shout out!
I love meditation, in many of the forms that people don’t consider meditation. And I love mini-meditations especially! Just a quick moment away from every influence in your life can re-center you.
Hey, you got the shout! Ha ha, you’re welcome! Thank YOU for your amazing comment.
Talk about food for thought! I love the idea of watching our thoughts and distancing ourselves from them – and, as you say, accepting them in whatever form they come. Great episode!!
Thank you Charlie! Accepting and allowing them to be is really the easiest route to take. Less resistance creates less disharmony. Thank you so much for your comment!
Hi Paul, your story of the flower pot smashing in your big toe made me cringe as I was visualizing it in my head. Interesting that we instinctly add drama to try get attention and comfort.
Yeah, no kidding! We learn that at an early age, that’s for sure. Thanks so much for the comment Anthony, I appreciate it!
“Close the loop, don’t let things linger. Eat that frog, and get it done.
The faster it’s done, the faster and more clear your path to inner
peace.” – I totally agree with this one! The best way to get out of a challenging situation is acceptance, then finding a solution and make sure we do whatever it takes to be better.
Great episode you got here!
Right on Justin! You got it. Great observation for sure! Thank you so much for your contribution. I appreciate it!
Great Episode @theoverwhelmedbrain:disqus! Love your emphasis on thoughts. I encourage this way of thinking with my kids and particularly my 15 year old who suffers from Anxiety. Trying to teach some good mental habits to help into adulthood. Thanks for all the great content!!