Pain is part of life, and so is suffering. But for how long must we suffer? Yes, I had experienced painful events, but the ongoing pain was the suffering I chose to endure. Not that I raised my hand and said to the universe, “Yes, please give me suffering.” Not consciously anyway.
In hindsight, my subconscious did say yes, as I was continually caught up in the story of how hard everything was – the disease, the fighting in my marriage, the aimless feeling about trying to make my way through life. I played the lead role in my own movie of suffering. It was a silent film, a discourse of affliction in my own head between me, myself, and I.
I’m not belittling my own suicidal thoughts (Part 1/3). They were a valid reaction based on my experiences. It was a turning point for me, the awareness of being in an emotional free-fall of despair where I contemplated ending it all. The extreme thoughts and unmanageable emotions were an awakening for me to look at my behavior and habits.
I had to attend to the reckless instability inside of me.
Emotions often feel like an uncontrollable force, for good or bad, that sometimes overpower me. I am a feeler, a contemplative soul encouraged by my mom to feel into my emotions. I realized I had become a slave to the feelings, letting them command my actions with little awareness of the effects.
So what are emotions anyway? My teacher describes them as a bodily sensation with an interpretation, a signal about how we feel. This definition makes sense to me because I can literally feel the physical effects of the emotions in my body, but at the same time, there is a thought associated with the sensation. An interpretation is a thought based on our perceptions or experiences. When I was deep in suffering and considering drowning myself, my thoughts were unruly. Consequently, so were my emotions and my actions.
I turned to the mindfulness practices for help. After years of studying, it was time to put the concepts into real-life practice. Let’s just say the awareness bus ran right into me and said, “Pay attention!”
I was drowning in my suffering, unable to see what was happening. There was no peace in my heart.
Awareness crept in, and I started to realize I was allowing the unpleasant emotions of sadness, grief, and pain to run my life. The emotions were playing out in my behavior. Blinded by the suffering, I was unable to see the destructive patterns I had created until I started to pay attention to my habits.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention. So I began to observe myself, noticing mostly the unpleasant emotions and some of the pleasant. I noted the frequency of my eruptions as well as my reactions. I was dwelling in the pain. The continual dwelling is the suffering.
Awareness shone a light on what was actually happening; my pattern was to induce catastrophic meltdowns from painful emotions resulting in continued suffering.
I realized I rarely made space to soothe my pain and find a more skillful response.
My mental health depended on how I could cultivate a new pattern for a more peaceful way of being. Of course, the caveat is that awareness is knowing, the doing is the real-life practice of changing and implementing healthier habits.
Check out, Mindful Autoimmune, my free download of mindfulness practices to help Autoimmune Friends feel grounded and centered.