What do you mean we are causing our own suffering? That’s crazy!
It’s generally believed in Mindfulness that clinging causes suffering. Think about it a moment. When we are attached to an outcome, we desire that one specific thing to happen and we tend to be more likely to suffer when that exact outcome is not achieved. We all have different levels of clinging to different things in our life.
Some people let the big things go, but something as small as the time change can throw them for a loop. How many people do you know, or you may be one of them, that rant about the time change? Perhaps one complains about it on Facebook or blames all foggy mornings for weeks on the time change? In this case, we lost an hour. There’s nothing we can do about it. We know this is coming, it’s not like it was a surprise and we had an expectation of doing something with that hour. Our whole life the time has changed, every year, unless of course you live in Arizona or one of the few other places where it doesn’t change. And yet, this throws some people and they cause themselves suffering and grumpiness for weeks because of the time change.
There’s a concept called impermanence. I’ve mentioned this concept before. The one thing we can count on is that everything in life is impermanent. Weather, attitude, pain, it’s all going to come and go. If it’s what we consider to be pleasant now, we can guarantee it will become unpleasant at some point. But the bright spot is we know it will become pleasant again! When we combine these two ideas, by remembering the idea of impermanence perhaps we can begin to loosen our grasp on the clinging, just a bit.
Personally, I’ve found myself clinging to the idea of winter. I love my seasons and even though they’ve been warning us about El Nino for months now, I find myself clinging to my desire for snow, or more specifically, not rain! I know I am causing myself suffering. I call myself on it constantly. I have these conversations in my head, “Christine, you are complaining about the weather again. You know there is nothing you can do about it and it will snow at some point. Until then you can always hike instead of ski.” I loosen up a bit, vow not to complain about the weather anymore and then the next time I run into someone and they say “Hi, how are you?” I say, “Fine, but what about this weather? Do you how much snow we’d have if it were cold enough?!” And, the whole thing starts over.
And these are the little things in life. I’m causing myself suffering simply because I’m always confused by what coat I should wear when I leave the house and I wonder if the skiing will be good all winter. There are so many examples of expectations that we cling to in our everyday life. We expect everything from meetings to meals, events, and vacations to all go as planned. Unfortunately, while we are busy freaking out about something that is different, we are often missing that moment. We are in the moment we wanted, but missing the moment that is here. This is one of the many ways our life passes us by so quickly. Even if it is an unpleasant moment, there is a benefit to experiencing it; and often the sooner we recognize it’s unpleasant, the sooner we find a bit of pleasant.
I invite you to practice recognizing when you are missing a moment, because you are stuck in the moment you wanted. Don’t beat yourself up every time, just notice. It’s human nature to plan, we’ve all been doing it our whole lives, some more than others. But perhaps during this busy holiday season, you can practice letting go a bit. Was everyone supposed to be going for a walk, but the weather is bad? Play a game! Did you have big plans for the perfect dessert, but the cake doesn’t look like the picture in the book? Turn it into a trifle – even fancier! Practice in each moment recognizing if you want something to be different and just look around and smile at what is now.
Please note - This is a hard practice! I find I have to always be watching for that little clinging “I wish” desire, but every time I pull myself back to the moment, even if it’s a rainy moment with the clouds hanging over the mountains, I can find more ease than the moment before when I was clinging to my plan, my expectation.
In this season, I wish nothing more than for all beings to find the ease that an open heart and open mind bring, an ease from fear, from clinging, from desire, from anger.