The truth of the matter is that we do not ever really permanently overcome anything. To overcome is a verb, which means to succeed in dealing with a problem or difficulty again and again and again and again. To overcome something is a lifetime practice.
As some of you have realized by now, to be human means to be confronted with continually arising problems and difficulties. As soon as we have been successful in dealing with one problem or difficulty- WHAM! a new one is there to take its place.
This is why it is best to think of success as a process rather than being a noun or something permanent that we attain. Success is as fleeting and impermanent as everything else. One moment we may feel its benefits but the next moment we are aware of its absence.
This is why I believe that our real life’s work is in learning how to effectively manage, handle, deal with, carry and regulate the suffering that comes along with being human. Depression and anxiety are very palpable experiences that cause a person to feel like they are being consumed by their fear, worry, darkness or anger.
These uncomfortable emotions feel like they are taking us over and we feel like there is little we can do to defend ourselves against them. But there is a lot we can do. This is one thing that I know for certain (and there are not many things that I can express with this kind of certainty)- we can empower ourselves to feel better, to feel more in control despite the suffering we feel.
Without question, my real life’s work has been to learn how to be able to effectively manage or handle my fear, anger, sadness, worry and despair when it arises. Through practicing mindfulness techniques I find my self stuck less and less in negative and unpleasant emotional states.
It is not that I do not feel anger, depression, anxiety, pain or sadness anymore. I experience these states in some form almost everyday (if even for just five seconds) but again and again I am successful at keeping myself present and just carrying the discomfort until it passes. This causes the negative emotional states to not feel so strong when I encounter them and to pass away fairly quickly once I become aware of them and let them run their course.
It is through learning how to effectively manage my more unpleasant emotions and thoughts that I am able to find more and more equanimity, contentment, freedom and peace in my own life. This is what I mean by transforming suffering.
In one of my notebooks from a workshop that I took with Jack Kornfield I made a note of several things he said. One of those notes that I put a star besides says: “As we practice the art of mindful living, a spaciousness will open up for us around our feelings, thoughts and perceptions and we will be less likely to be reactive to the unpleasant situations in our lives.”
In the seminar this Saturday I will be helping individuals learn and integrate several mindfulness techniques that I learned from Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn and several other mindfulness teachers. These techniques (or practices) empower us to feel like right NOW, in this very moment, we possess tools that we can use to create a much less stressful experience for ourselves and those whom we are closest to.
And after all it is important to remember what Carl Jung said about practice, “A person who gets past the age of thirty and does not have some kind of daily practice to keep themselves grounded in sanity will most certainly lose their minds over and over again.”