I read in a book once that pain is something that is inevitable. Suffering, however, is what we do to ourselves. Suffering comes when we allow our thoughts to run away from us, or when our thoughts spiral out of control without our awareness.
As a yoga teacher and student, I watch people. Daily I hear people say they don’t have enough time, don’t have enough of this or that and they become unhappy and feel trapped by their circumstances. What if I told you this suffering was created by us thinking things should be a certain way? What if I told you the key to happiness is as simple as changing your thoughts?
Here is an example. I enjoy a morning practice before I teach yoga on Tuesday and Thursday. If I get to the studio and there is a mess, or something else that needs my attention, I no longer have the time to practice. This means no practice until the end of the day just before I go to bed. Which means a short, restorative practice with very low energy. Often my thoughts will turn negative and I will beat myself up for not practicing. To change this, I gave myself a phrase I learned from Max, “This too I can include.” Over the years I have shortened it to “this too”. When my thoughts turn to suffering or how things should be, I simply say to myself, “this too” and focus on something I am grateful for.
My life has shifted from one of negative comments to one of more balance, peace and joy. I have learned that the upsets in life usually turn out okay as long as I look at it from a different angle. I turned my mind (which used to be full of suffering) to one that feels content most of the time. All through changing my thoughts and realizing I have no control over anything except my own thoughts.
For the next week, when you feel your thoughts taking down that twisting, turning path; take a breath and let it go. Remind yourself that pain (lack of time, lack of money, lack of control over situations and others, kids whining) is part of our reality. The suffering (spiraling thoughts, thoughts of worthlessness, inner critic) is the only thing we have control over. Each time your thoughts turn to suffering, take a breath and release it. Instead, replace the thought with a something positive or a word that helps you.