No one has a perfect life but there are ways to experience suffering where you’re still able to access feelings that include happiness and contentment. Life is that grand. It’s worth it even when it feels terrible, which explains why soldiers in a war will fight for their life, against all odds, just for the right to stay alive even though it’s in the middle of a war.
Why is it spiritually or psychologically beneficial to be okay with your suffering? The idea that you are a story rather than an entity can seem very abstract and hard to grasp and yet that little layer of narrative is the only thing that separates you from that wonderful sense of connection and oneness you’ve felt at times in your life.
Living that way is profoundly healthy. As I’ve noted before, it’s why during the European invasion of North America no Natives wanted to go live in European “culture” and yet tens of thousands of Europeans abandoned their civilisation to join peaceful equanimity of the Natives. More like cells in a larger organism the Natives didn’t have individualised perspectives or problems, they saw themselves as part of a complete whole that was simply being. They had no personal stories there was only the story of All and how can you not belong in a story of All?
Your only problem is that you see experiences as being yours. They are happening to you. But look at it this way: Imagine there is a central light source covered by a sphere filled with little holes. As your hole opens the light shines out and you are born. The light itself cannot hope to comprehend the fuel behind the source, the design of the creation that formed them, nor even the nature of light itself. The beam has a source but it cannot know that source.
The light must travel through the first few feet to get to further distances and yet as the light moves “forward” it is still the entire beam of light, not just its farthest reaches. During its travel the light will go through very dark areas, very light areas, it will bounce off reflective surfaces and be impeded by fog or rain or smoke. Our tendency as ego-stories is to talk about our lives as though they are the fog or rain or smoke rather than understanding that those are experiences your life is travelling through. The experience and experiencer get confused.
Is it on one level harder for the light to move forward through a fog? Yes. Does the light know this by thinking about it? No. Does it slow the parts of the light down that are unimpeded? No. So does the fog exist? Yes, on one level, but not as a limiting fog; just as an experience. The light doesn’t know fog or smoke or mirrors. It just shines. So yes the fog is “harder” than the mirrors, but to who?
If there’s no you–if you stay aware that you’re the entire beam and that the fog is the fog and not the light failing–then there are experiences being experienced but no one is using words to attach themselves to those. You’re simply not making those part of a personal story. They aren’t seen as being your experiences, they’re seen as where your light is shining.
This is a very simple thing but when we look at it from the wrong angle it can seem like it’s ridiculously complex. If you showed the average person the details behind how a battery chemically worked, how a bulb technically works and how the light travels in physics terms, the whole thing can seem overwhelming and yet everyone knows that a flashlight will illuminate whatever you point it at.
To shine is to live. It’s a wonderful thing. Yes your light will be impeded. Yes some experiences will leave parts of it in shadow forever, and yes our beam eventually meets enough that it fades out of being altogether, but these are also all the very same experiences that allow each beam to feel like an individual when in the end we are all merely portals emerging from one common source.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.