Our Addiction to Suffering
It has been almost one year since I eliminated news media from my life.
That addiction was difficult to break.
I wanted to share my journey as encouragement for others to stop consuming this poison daily.
Then I realized media consumption is a symptom of a larger disease.
This disease is an addiction…
We are addicted to suffering.
We tell ourselves ‘I can’t be successful without hard work.’
We believe nothing is worthwhile without a struggle.
We refuse to feel proud if our accomplishments comes easy.
My journey to freedom from addiction to suffering began around the time my life fell apart.
Shutting down a business, ruining a marriage, and scraping your finances to the ground are powerful catalysts.
Despite these shattering events, it took a few more years of creating innovative ways to make my life miserable before I reached a point where I couldn’t imagine how things could get any worse.
A funny thing happens when life gets really, really, really painful.
In those moments the Universe shows you a glimpse of Peace.
You may be thinking: ‘I have experienced Peace.’
I’m talking about the kind of Peace that has nothing to do with your feelings or your situation.
Peace has nothing to do with what you are feeling.
Peace is not an emotion.
I once wrote about how Peace occurs in the absence of emotions but that is not quite accurate.
Emotions are created by chemicals in our brain.
Most people believe these emotions occur because of what happens to us and around us.
“I am angry because the driver cut me off.”
“Seeing that couple in love made me so happy.”
“Reading about our president makes me upset.”
Each of these statements are nonsense but I don’t expect you to agree with me right away.
The belief that our emotions are caused by what happens outside of us is actually part of the addiction.
As you start down the path of Understanding you realize the ‘truth’ is relative.
A sage (enlightened one) would go so far as to tell you ‘Truth’ cannot be spoken.
Lao Tzu (author of the Tao Te Ching) wrote ‘The Tao that can be told (spoken) is not the eternal Tao.’
To put this in perspective, imagine the Bible came with a disclaimer that read:
‘Everything you are about to read is a bunch of bullshit but it’s the closest we could get to comprehending the incomprehensible word of God… good luck!’
All we are only capable of knowing are concepts…
…and our knowing of these concepts evolves.
Like a door behind a door, you gain access to one level of the Understanding at a time.
Each door you open presents another door which may open for you…or it may not.
It’s like learning math.
You study geometry in order to understand algebra which you need to understand trigonometry if you even want a shot at conceptualizing calculus.
And like math, you get as far as you get.
No matter how hard I tried, calculus never made sense.
That’s how it goes.
When it comes to opening doors to the Understanding, overwhelming pain is a 24 hour locksmith.
I remember the first time I caught a glimpse of the concept that my suffering was self-inflicted.
Where I once believed events and circumstance cause my suffering, I saw how I created my suffering and then related events and circumstances to my suffering.
The second law of Buddhism says: “Desire is the cause of all suffering.”
Desire is often misinterpreted as something we want that we do not have.
Buddha interpreted desire much more broadly as ‘The space between what IS and what we believe SHOULD BE.’
As far as Buddha was concerned, losing my business, the end of my marriage, and declaring bankruptcy had nothing to do with my suffering.
Suffering exists in my belief that these things shouldn’t have happened and my belief I should have been able to prevent them.
Like I said…
‘Bad’ stuff happening tends to crack open the first door a little bit.
I didn’t put the door there.
I simply chose to walk through and see what was behind it.
Feel free to dismiss this as new age nonsense but before you do, ask yourself:
‘What would it mean if this were so?’
Can Peace ONLY come from tremendous amounts of pain?
Peace is accessible for anyone at anytime.
All that is required is motivation.
Yet what motivation exists for freeing ourselves from addiction to struggle?
The same motivation an alcoholic has to escape the bottle.
Sobriety is ‘available’ anytime for an alcoholic.
That said, I have yet to see an alcoholic take advantage of this access to sobriety before hitting rock bottom.
Why would they?
Addiction feels good…
Until it doesn’t.
Our addiction to suffering functions the same way.
It feels really good…
Until it doesn’t.
Suffering defines us for most of our lives.
We tell and retell stories about past suffering.
We talk talk incessantly as we work to overcome our suffering.
Sometimes we simply choose to suffer endlessly.
We cannot imagine our life without suffering.
An end to suffering sounds scary.
“Fear motivates me.”
“If I didn’t have some stress, why would I get out of bed in the morning?”
“My struggle made me who I am today.”
I hear those phrases daily.
If you are among the many waiting to begin your journey to freedom from suffering someday, I’ve got bad news.
The belief that change will occur when the pain becomes too much is a lie.
The popular nonsense that change comes from creating your vision for a desirable future is also a lie.
Freedom from suffering is a place to come from NOT a place to get to.
There is no there you will ever get to on this journey.
When you are in love with your suffering, no amount of current pain or future pleasure will motivate you to leave it behind.
All that said, it may surprise you to know you have the power to begin this journey any time.
Your journey begins the moment your disease ceases to be as dear as the cure.