I would like to thank my readers for your patience. I’m sure I don’t have to say much more than: I’m dealing with some dental pain while looking after two 96 year old parents with dementia. It’s actually going well for what it is. But it does add a lot of chaos to life and that plays havoc with my schedule. I appreciate your understanding.
As the previous sections describe, every one of us has a natural motivation to move toward rewarding feelings, and to resolve or move away from unrewarding feelings. However, if we cannot resolve or move away from the cause of feelings that diminish us, then we have no other option other than to accept reality.
With no thoughts impeding it, ‘acceptance’ becomes a beautiful form of clarity that allows reality to flow, even in seemingly terrible circumstances. It creates the salvation most human beings seek during periods of anguish. The opposite of that is to meet reality with Resistant Thinking, which is how most egos create most of their suffering.
Back in Chapter Three, in one of the very first examples I used, one person had an agonizing experience attending the wedding of the person they loved. And in a more recent example, someone had an agonizing experience studying for an important test, thanks to a barking dog.
The way people currently see reality, we imagine that one person has a big problem, and the other has a smaller problem. One is being hurt by the marriage of the person they love. And the second is being hurt by the way the dog’s bark prevents them from focusing on something important.
In the way humans currently understand reality, we imagine that the heartbroken, or agonized feelings that those people are experiencing, are like a sum: ‘Who’ (+) ‘what happened’ is the equation. And our emotional state is thought of as though it is some inevitable (=) ‘answer.’
But that is a false conception of reality. Those people were not hurt by those events. They were hurt by their resistance to them.
In order to properly comprehend how reality works, the next seemingly radical idea that we must accept is: Suffering is not created by ‘bad experiences’ or ‘negative emotions.’ Suffering is the sensation created when we resist reality with our thinking.
As illustrated in the previous sections, our feelings are sensing systems for reality. Their feedback is neither good nor bad. The feedback exists ‘in the now,’ in a state of flow. And their purpose is to help guide our choices about what direction to take our life.
Saying one feeling is ‘better’ than another is like saying ‘right’ is ‘better’ than ‘left,’ when in reality the context would dictate that. Even ‘sadness’ is welcome as a part of romantic music, it’s used to enjoyable effect in drama, and it can help create poignant connections between people.
‘Grief’ is the painful realization that no future experiences can be generated with a loved one. It is a recognition of a painful reality that must be faced before we can move on in life. It is the tail end of ‘love,’ and to remove it from life would remove the preciousness of love and life itself.
Despite those things being true, many years after a loved one dies, it is possible for a thinking ego to still be depressed by thoughts about wanting a different life in which a loved one is still alive, or some past issue was resolved before their passing. And the greater the ‘want’ for an alternate reality, the greater the suffering.
So why do we do it even though it hurts so much? It’s because we live within the illusion of thought.
Our desires are understandable because we appear to share them with everyone else. Everyone is doing things like, spending time wanting certain futures; or wanting repaired pasts. So it doesn’t feel crazy. And yet we obviously cannot change the past, nor reliably predict the future. So why would we spend our lives trying to do something so painful, illogical, and impossible?
It’s because our brain relies on itself to accurately depict reality to itself. Meaning: if our minds spend enough time in a thought-based, theoretical, illusory reality, and that habit is commonly accepted in our culture, then any person can easily come to delusionally feel that maybe we could save ourselves from our guilt or regret, stupidity or ignorance, embarrassment or shame, or anger or fear.
Of course, in reality the idea of a clean and orderly life—with no mistakes, challenges or regrets—is only a mirage of thought. Things will absolutely go badly for us in life, which is why nature gave us the ability to create painful feelings; we need them. They help connect us to others.
To avoid painful feelings is to avoid perfectly useful and even poignant feedback about the world. We just need to learn how to use them, much like we use the pain in a joint or bone to encourage us to limp; or how many people had their psychological pain lead them to contact someone like me. It’s guidance, not a failure.
It helps if we learn to treat all kinds of painful ideas and experiences in that way. The feelings we get are not the ‘end of a story.’ They are a ‘call to action,’ even if in some cases that action is non-action.
Next, I will offer a real-world example of how even extreme circumstances can be made sacred all by simply allowing reality to flow without the resistance of ego-based thinking.
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.