A decade ago my mind was in a very dark place. In this darkness I looked for the light, even the tiniest little bit of hope that my suffering had an ending and perhaps a meaning.
I sought answers from all the well known world religions and even from those that few people know exist. I read the immortal words of long dead influential people and contemplated the views of legendary leaders.
Though inspired and filled with new knowledge, I still had not walked out of the darkness. Even knowledge is useless if it is held within idle minds. No one could save me except myself. A lesson I had not yet learned.
Finally, I came across these words, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Sounds like a cryptic riddle, but in time I understood what those words meant.
The words are an ancient Buddhist teaching that tells us we are the source of our own suffering. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s own attitude in any given situation.”
We choose how we feel. We choose to feel happy or we choose to embrace suffering and sadness.
Life is Samsara, that is another Buddhist teaching. Samsara means cycle and in Buddhism and Taoism it refers to the cycle of life and that in life, suffering is continuous. It comes and goes and we often cannot avoid it.
What we can do, as Viktor said, is to choose how we react. Often times, our suffering only exists because we either allow it to or because we actually create it ourselves. In either case we are the cause of our own suffering.
Sure we cannot change events of the past, we cannot always heal disease or bring back those we have lost, but our lasting pain is not in those things, pain is in our perception of those things.
Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” In those words is absolute truth.
No one has ever taught me how to find joy in every day things better than Thich Nhat Hanh. In his words, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar… Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.”
So in life, take this gem of wisdom and carry it with you wherever you go. You are the source of your happiness and the source of your sorrow. Everyday and in every moment, you must make the choice of which one you want to feel.
Meditations (Penguin Classics)
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