How to Stop Your Own Suffering

meditation, mindfulness, quiet mind, hope, grace, coping, sadness, anxiety, be still

When people ask what benefits I derive from my meditation practice, I find myself at a loss for words. Imagine that, me of all people not able to provide a sufficient answer. I know what it feels like, I know how it feels to experience life differently. I just couldn’t find the right words. Until now.

I used to tell people it was an additional coping skill for dealing with hard times and feelings. I used to tell people that it helped remind me to breathe, to be present, to be grateful, to be grace. These are all still true. But today the words found me. I don’t think it was so much an issue of finding the words, but instead finding my way to this space of a different understanding whereupon I can draw upon these words. This truth has always been there, I just needed to be in this space to feel them.

Yes, my mindfulness meditation practice reminds me to quiet my mind. But it’s not just the quieting of the mind to ease anxieties. It doesn’t stop there. It quiets the mind so that my mind doesn’t continue to scurry about, examining every single What If….? If Only…? But Why…? My mind, my soul, now understand that the answers to those questions don’t matter. In fact, the questions themselves don’t matter. My head knew that. But it wasn’t a truth for me yet. Until now.

True acceptance of the present moment, the present circumstances as-is, requires the mind to be still. I’ve finally learned to stop the Intellectualization Train. Because there’s no destination, and the journey on that train didn’t feel good. This train doesn’t even have a cash bar.

The over-thinking ad nauseum, the quest to better understand, the examination to determine what happened, the desire for an explanation–they do nothing but create suffering, ennui, confusion. I used to want to know why. Then I wanted to show I was right, I could fix that, or you, or me. And it would all be better then. I thought if I could understand and fix it, then my suffering would end.

I understand now that it only hurts when I want that person to be someone he is not, to be someone else. It only hurts when I want the current circumstance to be something different, to be somewhere else, to live another life. The details, the back stories, the explanations, the possibilities–none of it matters. What matters is what I decide to do when presented with current circumstances, when faced with the truth of who someone is.

And it is in the quietness of this space that I can make decisions that honor me, that are kind to me, that allow me the space to draw upon past lessons to make different decisions. Or, because I’m human, make the same decisions and be fully aware I’m choosing to suffer again, one more time. For old time’s sake.

Before, quieting my mind offered moments of peace, of silence, of tranquility. It helped me insert pauses into my day. It helped me put the brakes on freaking out. It helped me stop the anxiety for a moment, until it came back. Because it always comes back. Because anxiety and sadness and confusion are always part of life.

But this new understanding provides a different quieting of the mind. This is quieting my mind from the outset, of understanding the over-intellectualizing IS the suffering The suffering is the wondering Why he did this, or Why she didn’t do that, or if Only things were different.

He did do that, she didn’t do that, and things aren’t different. That’s all there is. I am in a space in life now where that’s all I need to know to make my decisions. And there will be accompanying anger or sadness or frustration. But there isn’t the suffering. There aren’t any story lines, which are the suffering. Sadness and anger and frustration is very different without the suffering.

They don’t feel good. But they’re not overwhelming. I used to have difficulty feeling negative emotions because I experienced them so intensely, so fully. So I tried to avoid them. I felt like they would consume me, that I would drown in them. But feeling sadness as sad; feeling anger as anger, feeling frustration as frustration–these I can do.

It’s easier to acknowledge these, and sit with them, and let go. It doesn’t cut quite as deep. It doesn’t tie me to the past as much. It lets me move forward. It doesn’t keep me stuck in this quicksand that is suffering, where I feared it would consume me. This new truth allows me to invite Anxiety or Sadness into my home, because I know they’re here for just a short while before they go calling on someone else, and they mean no harm. This new truth allows me to be a good host because I know Grace and Hope will come calling again soon too.

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16 Responses to How to Stop Your Own Suffering

  1. lorigreer says:

    This post is one of the most helpful and beautiful I have ever read. I read it on a day when my heart is troubled and I feel much, much better. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, thank you so very much. Second, I’m so glad my words were able to provide some solace. Third, I am terribly sorry it’s taken me so long to reply!! Life took me through som turns and I’m just now getting back to breathing! My sincerest apologies. I’m grateful for your time in reading my work!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favorite questions to ask another is: What purpose does holding on to “x” serve? Followed by: What would you prefer to hold on to? 🙂 Enjoyed your perspective here!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Love that!! Sounds similar to what I ask a lot of clients, “How’s that working for you?” 🙂 Sincerest apologies for such a tardy reply. I’m always so grateful not only for you taking your time to read my work, but for your insightful feedback and comments. I’m so sorry life’s got me running ragged of late. Please don’t take my tardiness for lack of appreciation for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and wisdom.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. bahelberg1 says:

    This is an inspiring explanation, to say the least, of what meditation can do for the soul. You, indeed, seem to have “found the right words”! It’s good to meet you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh thank you so very much! I appreciate your kind words. It is so lovely to meet you as well! I’m so very sorry for responding so late. Life took some turns and it’s been hectic for me. Please do not take my lack of timely reply for not appreciating your comments and your taking the time to connect with me and read my work. I hope to stay conected with you!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I loved how you captured what meditation does for you. I keep reading about how magically a regular mediation practice can change the way you see and feel thing. Unfortunately, I also keep failing to establish that very same routine. I suspect I’m too impatient, neglecting the practice part. There seems to be no short-cut to the results you describe. I’m still struggling for a good and gentle way to start – and to keep going. How did you do it??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I completely understand and know exactly how you’re feeling about it, and how frustrating it can feel! It took me starts and stops through years–mostly stops! I honestly started off working on self-compassion and self loving kindness, being gentle with myself, learning to be more authentic and vulnerable. It was only when I was in a better place with that, that I was able to be in the moment more, in the discomfort. And from there, a lot of practice. Not just sitting, but being in the moment and kind to myself. And knowing I’ll fail, and that’s ok. Just get back to it. For myself, reading Pema Chodron’s works really helped me get into a mindset to practice mindfulness. I hope this help! Please keep me updated??

      Liked by 1 person

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