As I sail from country to country exploring the sources of stress and anxiety and it’s implications on our health and well being, I discover a condition that seems to be a root cause of this discontentment, no matter where I am in the world. I am not speaking of the stress caused by poverty, oppression, starvation, lack of healthcare or disease, as these conditions present a set of circumstances, more often than not, out of the individual’s control. Here, I’m talking about the stress we experience as a result of our continuous push away from living in the present, towards a future where we imagine ourselves to somehow be better off than we are right now. The majority of our stress and worry seems to result in our inability to be present in our lives as they unfold before us, moment by moment.
Why are we so terrified of being present? Why do we seek to become constantly numb to our life’s unfolding? How else could we be, having been beaten and often defeated by the sudden knocks and blunt strikes of life? Some unexpected, some of our own making, attempts to conceal what sneaks up between the cracks of this resistance to ourselves, just as we are. What we are left with is a constant and often empty struggle to fill in the cracks, attempting to stifle what emerges when we unconsciously let a little bit of ourselves seep out.
What we fail to recognize is that this is the suffering in itself, the stifling, the withholding, and the denying ourselves the opportunity to become familiar with who we are. It is not the pain of our anger, our sadness or even our loss that causes us the most suffering, it is our relentless determination to conceal from ourselves and others the fullness and beauty of who we actually are; what is exquisitely contained within all of our experiences, both the pleasant and the unpleasant.
Much of this comes by no fault of our own. We spend years in school studying, without learning to tap into the deep internal resources that are dependable and available to us at any moment, waiting to relieve us of this suffering. Instead our society continuously bombards us with offerings that promise richness and freedom, but instead lure us into continuous exploits of temporary self-satisfaction. The marketing is genius and put forth with a calculated consciousness; knowing we are terminally ill in this longing, sick with this insatiable hunger to know ourselves deeply. Consequently, the longer we attempt to satisfy this hunger with toxic prescriptions or possessions, trivial titles or authority, the more hollow and empty we become; frazzled, anxious and addicted to the pursuit.
The truth is, that each of us holds within us the capacity to alleviate our suffering by surrendering to the actuality of our lives unfolding before us. To allow the wisdom of loss, heartache, anger, guilt, sadness and joy to nourish us. . To understand that our suffering is not caused by what is contained within the cracks but results in our endless attempts to conceal, deny and extinguish who we actually are. To recognize that what is discovered within the cracks provides the sustenance we need to nurture our suffering, know ourselves deeply and obtain freedom.
Make an effort to be mindful of when you may be trying to use external means to take care of your inner turmoil. Instead, allow yourself a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of your own withholding. Let your disappointment, heartache and loss be felt, trusting that the wisdom held within these experiences will gradually provide for lasting and sustainable freedom from your suffering. In doing so you will slowly begin to discover that stress and worry are not a result of what is happening, but results from what we refuse to allow to unfold, as it is. As always, practicing self-compassion and treat yourself kindly, moment, by moment, by moment.