My wife bought me this picture this week for my office. The saying on it has a lot of meaning for me in so many ways, but it’s taken on a deeper meaning given the current circumstances of our lives. It’s like slowly I have been seeing deeper into the “You” that I am saying “Hello” to!
Let me explain.
There’s a famous saying:
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.
It’s come to have greater meaning for me in recent weeks as at the moment, I am going through quite a trying period. If you have ever gone through one of those periods when you wonder when life is going to let up, you’ll know what it’s like.
Right now, my wife and I are surrounded by all sorts of chaos, from dying relatives and legal cases to crazy building works and sick cats that keep peeing all over the house. This is just on top of the usual stuff of life, work and kids. And it’s been like this for quite sometime. In fact, over the course of the last year, I would say, there has been this sense of it just being ‘one thing after another’.
But the thing is I am not suffering so much as I once would have. In fact, there is part of me that has glimpses of the sheer beauty of life in all of it’s entirety. In the midst of some of the most tumultuous periods, I have been surprised at how quiet I have found myself. It’s like so many of the coverings around my heart have begun to collapse, leaving me left naked, surrendered, and in a space of love – totally present to what is.
I know this might sound strange, and even ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong – I do experience pain, and by that I mean I am definitely experiencing some pretty low state emotions. Frustration, sadness and anger are quite common companions for me at the moment. Grumpy John has definitely made an appearance or two!
Some might express surprise at this. After all I’m a coach right? I am supposed to teach people about wellbeing and happiness. How can I do that if I am experiencing low state emotions?
Well, here’s what I see. There’s a common misconception that with an understanding of the Three Principles, that somehow you will be exempted from the human condition, or that you should find yourself in a perpetually positive place.
But it doesn’t look that way to me.
Yes – it’s true that my emotions and my experience of life are reflections of my thinking in any moment. But the truth of it is, I am not in control of the thoughts that pass through my mind. So if I make my wellbeing a function of my emotional state, then all that will inevitably happen when my thinking and feeling drops is I will end up in a space of suffering – trying to find my wellbeing by attempting to control something that it isn’t my business to control.
Emotional pain is a fact of the human condition. No-one is exempt from it. It’s not to, and can’t, be avoided.
So where’s the relief then from this understanding, and what is it that allows us to be more resilient and suffer less in difficult circumstances?
Well for me this relief comes in two guises. The first is knowing that whatever I am feeling is simply a reflection of my thoughts in the moment, and not my circumstances. Knowing this, and that our thoughts are transient means that I know they can and do change, and tend to do so faster if I don’t actually resist feeling what is coming up.
So when I end up in situations like I have found myself lately, I know it is virtually inevitable that I am going to bump up against some negative thinking and emotions about what’s going on. And that’s not a problem. It’s actually human.
Thinking about the situation I am in – one of my wife’s relatives is dying. When the eventual day comes, you would think it strange if I, or any member of our family, tried to get ourselves out of feeling sad or upset. It just wouldn’t make sense. Yet, this is how many of us treat our emotions, and is how we can get lost in seeing the Principles as if they are something prescriptive, when they simply aren’t.
Being able to see the transient nature of our thinking is resilience on one level. But there’s another much deeper level.
It’s a level of knowing, deeply and truly, that all is well, exactly as it is.
What enables us to see this more clearly?
In the conversation around the Three Principles, we speak of this Principle of Mind – a formless creative intelligence that is behind all things. It’s like the power behind an electrical circuit, and is responsible for beating your heart, growing trees and digesting your food. It’s akin to the True Self (with a big ’S’) that Eastern Spiritual traditions often speak of.
The deepest form of resilience arises when we begin to see that everything that happens in life is a part of and an expression of that True Self. When we begin to see through the illusion of the individual ego-self, which is just a bunch of transient and created judgemental thoughts, the True Self is all there is and ever was, coming into form in all its infinite forms of expression.
In realising this, there is peace. In realising this, there is true relief and resilience. In realising this, we begin to see that there is no ‘real’ suffering, just the appearance of suffering, because there is no-one separate from the True Self who can suffer. There is just, as one of my Spiritual Teachers once told me: “One playing the game of two”.
Sometimes the game it plays looks beautiful. Sometimes it looks ugly. Sometimes it looks unfair. But ultimately the game itself is the real beauty because the game is God experiencing and waking up to itself in expression in form. That’s what you are. That what I am. That’s all there is. This is the real gold and real source of our resilience – to know that whatever happens we are already part of this deeper intelligence.
It reminds me of this clip from American Beauty – one of my all time favourite movies. The clip had always touched me, but I had never really known why until recently. Now I see that for me it’s a reminder of this truth, and why there truly is nothing to fear, not even our transient emotions, when we see beneath the ideas of who we think we are and say “Hello You” to our True Self…
with all my love,
P.s. wrote most of this blog whilst listening to this very aptly named Spotify playlist. Some beautiful songs here: