- (This is part 4 in a series that started way back here in Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part 1.)
The third commitment (among the nine) that we make in order to surrender our addiction to suffering is:
3) Get honest with yourself about the consequences of exactly what happens when you accept your mind’s judgments as “the truth” and then act on them or allow them to affect your mood.
Most of us human beings live in a perpetual state of judgement. We're constantly evaluating whatever's around us and deciding upon its relative worth. The tragedy of this is that most often we're judging from a perspective of delusion wherein we imagine that we're separate from the life unfolding around us.
Since our judgments arise from and support this dualistic perspective of separation, we can end up in a never-ending loop of discontent and unhappiness.
The Vicious Cycle
Here's how it works: We look at a person or situation in our life, we judge it "not good enough," we treat that person or situation with much less than total love and acceptance (usually with criticism, disrespect, unkindness, impatience, indifference), then that person or situation responds (understandably) with a negative reaction to our ill-will, and that negative reaction validates our initial judgment of "not good enough" or "unsatisfying."
In other words, we reject the circumstances around us, they reject us right back, which gives us more reason to reject them. When the next tough situation comes up, you're already depleted and weary from your battle with the last one. Your respond with even less patience and more rejection.... and the cycle continues. When we're operating in this vicious cycle, it's easy to forget that we're doing it to ourselves. After all, people are rude to us, situations do go badly. It looks as if we have an objective rationale for deciding that stuff sucks. The mirroring responsiveness of the world outside us to our negativity can do a good job of masking that it's our negativity which fuels the problem.
This isn't to say that there aren't situations in the world which are massively challenging or that just by altering our disposition we can make everything totally peachy-- but it is to say that by altering our disposition we can make things a hell of a lot peachier than they would be if we just persisted in our criticism and rejection.
What circumstance in your life right now isn't matching up with your story about how it "should" be? How do you treat that circumstance when you're believing that it's lacking? Do you complain about it? Resent it?
Honesty is the cure
You can practice this commitment by being willing to look with fearless honesty at the results of your own judgment. How do you treat yourself when you believe something in your life is lacking? How do you treat those around you? Are you less-than-fully-present, brusque, self-pitying? How do you deal with the projects and responsibilities in your life? What do you do to make yourself feel better? Do you reach for a cookie, a cigarette, a glass of wine, a compliment? None of those things are inherently evil, but they can all wreck havoc in our lives if we use them to cover-up the stress caused by believing our thoughts. Don't shy away from minutely recording your own response to your belief in your mind's story.
The Virtuous Cycle
Whatever it is about your life that's bugging you, ask yourself this: what would it look like if I totally embraced, accepted, and loved this situation? What if peace and joy were more important to me than having it "my way"? Take time to strongly visualize and feel this scenario. Allow yourself to get a vision of the virtuous cycle.
In the virtuous cycle, a situation or person appears who challenges you-- and rather than responding with negative judgment and shutting down into aloofness or unkindness, you open up into love and acceptance. The situation or person then senses your love and responds -- often in very surprising ways! -- to the spaciousness and gentleness that you've offered. You receive positive feedback from the life around you, and this leads you to feel even better. Then, when the next tough thing comes up, you have extra reserves of love energy and willingness with which to meet it.
Image by Kudumomo, used under Creative Commons licensing, borrowed from Flickr.