The But of Suffering

IMG_4199Change. It’s constant. We hear that all the time. It’s the one thing you can count on. If nothing is changing, it’s stagnant – and stagnation is death. And yet, we often try to hold on to that energy of death – even if it’s no longer moving – instead of finding ways to move with the change.

In the past few months there have been possibilities for change in my life. Some changes I didn’t have any signs of stress or worry over, some I did.

At first in thinking about the more unknown changes that I felt uncertain about I found myself saying, “I love my life, but it’s going to change”.

I love my life. BUT. It’s going to change.

What a powerful word set in between those two statements. But.

For the first time I saw what that word did – to me, my energy, and my overall state of wellbeing. It seemed to act as a threat introducing fear. As though whispering – yes, you love your life now but it’s going to change and in that change you won’t love it any more.

It added in worry about the future and shut down possibilities – forcing me to not be open to change. It created a duality between the two worlds. The one I love now and the one in the future that I may or may not love (and assumptions creeping in that I wouldn’t). It started to create a loop that I could see quite clearly of two absolutes that both felt like truth and were contradictory to one another. Black and white. One must be better and the other worse.

I mean obviously the “good” thing is happening right now, so the “bad” thing must be what happens later, right? The second half of that sentence became clouded over by my beliefs.

The energy fed into these beliefs, creating more uncertainty and shortness in breath. The possibility of tipping over into anxiety was strong and with that change in breath and energy the thoughts tried to become even more fueled by it all. The thoughts wanted the loop to get stronger – the energy wanted to take root.

After a while even more could kick in around stagnation – the worry that if I don’t change now then I will lose both the life I love and what if the possibility of change would have made it even better? Fearing the death that stagnation brings. WIth that, for me, comes the feeling of paralysis.

Even though in the current moment nothing had changed. There was nothing happening and I was completely safe, happy, healthy, and as the first few words showed clearly – loving my life.

In practicing Tantric yoga philosophy I’ve learned about the idea of non-duality, which I often see as a practice where everything is included (all experiences, emotions, sensations). All is consciousness. When it comes to thoughts and thought-patterns and psychology, I like to see this practice work to show that there are no absolutes. No black and white dichotomy. Nothing is right or wrong or positive and negative. With non-duality there is no longer an either or. Everything is everything. There aren’t two worlds – one where I love my life and another where I may or may not. There is only one and it is full of life.

Through my practice I could observe the thought-pattern taking place and not get too caught up in it. I watched it for a while, feeling the sensations in my body and how my breath was starting to move. I kept breathing into my belly to ground and then remembered something that I had heard from a teacher recently. I applied his teaching and changed the “but” to “and”.

I love my life and it’s going to change.

Great! I love my life and it’s going to change.

My energy changed immediately. I felt so much better. I kept repeating it and watched the loop dissolve before my eyes. It let go. The energy calmed. The breath and sensations of anxiety disappeared. My suffering was completely alleviated. In fact, I started to feel energized by the possibilities and excitement that my life was going to change.

I love my life and it’s going to change.

There is no sense of loss there. It’s adding on, not creating the possibility of taking away (whether true or not, it was what I perceived as truth).

The statement becomes non-dual. It includes everything and offers more possibilities. In changing the one word I remain open and don’t talk myself around in unresolvable circles before anything has even happened.

“But” keeps me in a never-ending cycle of separation and suffering. With everything needing to be figured out in asking myself which is better: my life now or the maybe future life that will happen later as a result of these changes? As a result I become in conflict, turmoil and at the beginning of what could be a major spin resulting in anxiety or depression or both.

“And” brings everything together. No either or. It adds up to one whole. All is accepted and okay, incorporated into the whole. No sense of suffering. No spinning out of control. Nothing stagnates or is segmented and separated. It’s all one, flowing statement. There is no longer any death in this statement of life.

I was blown away by the quick shift this choice in words and thought brought to my overall state of being. What power in choosing to say and instead of but. If I wasn’t aware of the sensations in my body, breath, thoughts, I don’t know that I could have done that or so quickly.

Yes, there is a possibility (even a likelihood) that the future will hold things that are painful and I don’t like. It doesn’t mean that I will need to give up loving my life because of them. They too will be felt, honoured, and become incorporated into a larger whole. And though that whole will expand and contract over time there is nothing to be lost. There is nothing to suffer for or over in an effort to try to keep change (life!) out or pushed away. There is no change that I need to try and prevent or stress over. And now I have a magical tool to help me through the next time this loop appears.

I love my life and it’s going to change. There is no but about it.