Why do we all struggle? Why do we all suffer? Why is everything so hard?
If you have spent any time reading any sorts of new age, spiritual, Buddhist, even some Christian philosophies too, we collectively have a notion that suffering or struggling is something that is to be overcome – like our egos. In either the ego or suffering, we feel we must “do” something to “get” something.
We can use many different words aside from overcoming – accepted, given over to God, surmounted, etc. It doesn’t really matter, because rarely is the word “played” or even “enjoyed” applied, yet those are the best two words to both understand and find liberation in.
The ego (I realize I’ve written about this several times now in my ever inconsistent blog) can mean a myriad of definitions depending on the perception of the eyes grazing my meanderings. To me, the ego is the very idea of me. The person who types these words is not my idea of me. My idea of me is very conflicted and ever-changing. My idea of me is a person with very unstable moods, easily distracted, easily overwhelmed, rife with anxiety and depression, and generally a fuck up in every sense of the word. The flow of the words presently, however, come from a calmness that I can only experience when I stop thinking about myself.
In that paragraph, I have nothing positive to say about my notion of myself. However, that notion of myself also includes a very funny, very sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, insightful, excellent chef, and sexy ass bitch. Like cooking, I can sprinkle any of these ingredients in however I’d like. But, deep in my self, I feel and I have always felt none of this was truly me. I feel as though sometimes my notions of me and wardrobes go hand in hand. “I feel like being the girl who wanders the earth in pajamas me today”
Liberation comes from seeing that none of these is you. You are an incredible actor playing yourself in the world. We are so accomplished and effortless at playing ourselves, we’ve made it serious business and hard work. This is how we are so perpetually conflicted. Many of us believe a struggle is necessary. Without hard work, sweat, suffering, etc., we cannot achieve greatness. I doubt my abilities to write because I do it easily, so I literally think anything I write sucks because it flew out of me in a few minutes.
Most of us feel like we have to fight for love, suffer for love. Remember Self-Esteem by The Offspring? “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care…” Yet, Buddha and Jesus taught us we do not have to suffer. We simultaneously believe we must struggle and suffer, should not struggle and suffer, and cannot achieve anything without struggling and suffering. As with parenting, most of us kick our asses coming and going. No matter what we do, we think it’s wrong, and we suffer.
I heard this chillstep mix (opens in new tab, if you want to listen). This quote, “It’s not pushing the wheelbarrow that is the hard part. It’s thinking about it.” I have tried to ignore thinking about things, but if I think about not thinking, I create new thoughts. At first, I thought about how hard yoga was as I practiced. I would focus on how much my leg hurt, or how difficult it was breathing, and so on. Yet, if I remain solely focused on my breathing, I do not feel pleasure or pain. I feel sensation and awareness with nothing else. How is this possible?
In yoga, if I breathe, I allow a calm focused center to emerge. My body and mind react continuously, but I become aware of what I struggle to be aware of at other times. I call it the eye of the storm. It is the space within you that you feel looks out in the world, yet doesn’t quite feel like anything else. It’s this part of you that is paradoxically your favourite sweatpants that do not quite fit. The reality is, however, that center is always you, it’s always choosing the wardrobe/ego, you just are the pants telling yourself you are not the pants, or maybe you are? This is us thinking to ourselves. We make a statement, question, statement, and almost never actually make a decision. Decisions seem to come from a place that is not a parrot talking to its reflection.
So much confusion and seeming contradiction stem from attempting to put what you are in words. This is because none of us exist in words. None of us exist in the thinking mind. We think we do, but just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s real. I can think I’m a pirate, but if I dress like one, I might get escorted out of work one day. Our thinking minds cannot comprehend our ability to know and be, because knowing and being are realms outside of words and thinking can only happen in words.
Pain is only pain because we label it as such in our thoughts. Sometimes, this is imperative. If someone were to stab you in the hand and you decided to take a zen approach to being stabbed, you may continue to be stabbed and ultimately die. The purpose of our ego is to keep us alive. It is a scanning device ensuring the idea of you is still in existence and protecting the idea of you. The reality of you is that you can hear your own ego, therefore you are not the ego. If you were your thoughts, how could you hear yourself think? This is the confusion many face as they embark on spirituality: the ego is NOT BAD! If someone is stabbing you in the hand, you should not accept that, you should feel the pain and you should definitely do something about it. Pissing and moaning about a sore ass due to chair pose, on the other hand…..Either way, they are sensations and stimuli, and either way, you can choose your response accordingly.
Good and bad are illusions of the ego. They are labels we apply to sensations and stimuli. A sore muscle can be bad because it is uncomfortable or good because you know you exercise. The sore muscle hasn’t changed, just the labels we applied in our mind. It’s incredible how differently we all see the world. We have no way to prove each of us sees the same blue when we look at the sky. How can you describe a color? That’s where I was missing the fun part. Our egos, right now, controls most of our perception of the world. Perception is our view of the world. It’s like sunglasses for the brain.
Our egos make us feel disconnected, yet it is through the ego we experience the world. How can we transcend the ego? As we become more aware of the mind, we can see the power that perception has. When we perceive that we are struggling, or in pain, or something is negative, we want to change it immediately. Yet, if you find the way to change the perception of the situation alone, the situation itself will no longer bother you. This is where choice comes in to play. As the selector of your ego, of your wardrobe, of your thoughts, of everything you allow in your existence: you can either chose to struggle or you can choose not to.
How can any of this be enjoyed or played? I said that is where liberation lies. If your perception dictates your suffering, this means your perception can be attuned to finding the fun, the positive, the joy in every situation. If you are not your ego, then everything you do and view through your ego is a play – in the theatrical sense. You can stop taking yourself so seriously when you see that it is perfectly normal that you are a conflicted confused mess of ego while simultaneously being the eye of the storm of your own creation.
We all strive for more complicated answers: “It can’t be that easy, I haven’t done x,y,z, that’s why it’s all still so confusing” etc. Yet, the truth remains unchanged regardless of the words we put in front of it. The words are what makes it confusing, positive, or negative. Coming back to the sore muscle, you are only aware of that part of your body because it is sore. In any situation that is causing you a negative reaction, it is because you are aware of the negative. You can simultaneously be aware of the positive and become neutral again. This same correlation can then be applied to our ego. If we realize that our thinking is what is causing the notion of the struggle itself, we can see that we do not need to struggle anymore.