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Suffering is optional

The Conversation: Suffering is optional

A note from Jacqueline Glasgow

“What did the yogi say to the vacuum salesman? ... No thanks, too many attachments.”

Funny. And true.

Buddha tells us that ‘The root of all suffering is attachment’ and in a large way this is true. The desire for objects comes from attachment to these objects, and anger comes from unfulfilled desires. Therefore, we are always in suffering because we are always in a state of desire; for material possessions, pleasure, immortality. And if this isn’t enough, we complicate things even more by attaching to our thoughts, our emotions, and our stories - and then we believe these stories as truths.

Early this month I traveled to Europe to embark on a river cruise along the Danube. I spent a week shopping, organizing and packing for a winter vacation in Europe. Coming from Naples, this was quite a task ... putting together winter outfits, and thinking about how ‘cute’ I will look in my fur lined boots and hooded puffy jacket. And of course, all the accessories to match; gloves, hats, scarves, and sweaters! I packed and re-packed my 'packing cubes' until everything was perfect, and neatly arranged them in my suitcase. We checked our bags at the airport and flew to Vienna. Little did we know that our luggage would not be joining us on our vacation.

My first thought was that my entire vacation was ruined because I didn’t have ‘my stuff’ ... I was upset, I didn’t want to participate in excursions and I even considered flying home early. If I couldn’t have my vacation on my terms, I didn’t want it at all. This was the 'self-talk' going on in my head. As the days went on I realized that I was holding myself back and creating my own suffering through my attachment of how I wanted myself to look and not by the experiences I could be having. Well, by day 4 I had already said ‘goodbye’ to my belongings, started borrowing fellow passengers (and crew members) clothes, and decided to enjoy my vacation on my own terms! My luggage did arrive - on day 6 - and to my surprise, for the rest of my vacation I basically wore the same clothes anyways!

What a revelation! I was attached to the idea of my “stuff” - and not so much to the actual items, and it was all in my head! My mind was creating the suffering, not the actual experience of lost luggage. When I let go of the 'idea' of ownership to my ‘stuff’ I could actually enjoy my vacation and my experiences because nothing was getting in the way.

The same is true about our thoughts or our ‘stories’. It’s the stuff we tell ourselves in our mind (self talk) and then believe it to be true. It creeps in at every opportunity - and it stays with us over years and even decades. I’m talking about the stuff we tell ourselves when we are triggered, or uncomfortable, or when we aren’t in control. In reality, it’s in these moments that the ‘lessons’ arise because we get to choose if we are going to suffer or if we are going to ‘shift’.

Transformation doesn’t always show up in earth-shattering situations, sometimes the biggest shifts occur in the simplest moments; when we are cut off in traffic, when our restaurant meal is prepared wrong, when our luggage gets lost! It’s in these moments that we have an opportunity to show up in a big way; smile at the person who cut you off, tip your server large, go out and experience life even if you have to wear the same outfit everyday.

As we begin a brand new year, consider you get to choose how you enter it. 2019 is here for the taking. Claim it with power, inspiration and integrity and let 2018 melt away with all the stuff you don’t need anymore. It’s your choice to bring your suffering into the new year ahead - or leave it behind with the old.

Happy Empowered New Year!

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