The plane suddenly dropped like a roller coaster.
I grabbed my arm rest and clenched tight. Then I laughed out loud. The lady next to me gave me a “what are you laughing at crazy guy” look.
I laughed because what good will it do to hold on to my armrest if we crash? It won't help one bit.
The pilot told the passengers, “We hit a rough patch. Please make sure you’re buckled and we’ll hopefully be out of this soon.”
At that moment I relaxed. There was nothing I could do, so I just focused on these scared feelings as they arrived. I thanked them and went back to just watching my worried thoughts come and go.
It was at this moment that I really understood suffering. I was flying my merry way back to my home then all of a sudden the plane dropped 20 feet. I was expecting everything to stay on course. Once it shifted I felt scared.
The moment you start suffering it’s because it was created by your own thinking.
You can live with suffering or you can transform it. I choose to transform it. It’s as simple as seeing it from a different perspective.
I had an old friend who went into teaching. She enjoys her job, but she misses hot water. Her school doesn’t have hot water. When we worked together this was a given. Most places this is a given.
We don’t appreciate things until they are gone. This is why suffering is so rampant. We expect things to stay the same when they won’t.
To be able to transform your suffering, you have to be aware of your thoughts as they come in. This will allow you to catch those thoughts that are just a drop of suffering and transform them into thoughts that make you more joyful.
I started this gratitude journey because of my father’s passing. I used a gratitude journal to help me transform my thoughts. I became more of a watcher instead of letting my thoughts dictate my feelings.
Appreciating Your Thoughts
Our thoughts are so important. It makes me wonder why meditation is still so underutilized. Meditation allows us to slow down and reflect on what is going well and what we can improve.
You can apply the concepts of meditation as you go about your day. When you have a moment of suffering, try taking a moment to appreciate it before it takes you down a negative rabbit hole. Take one second to thank the thought. It starts the transforming process.
Then think about why the thought occurred. So for example when you are stuck in traffic you might have the thought…
“The traffic is awful!”
A transformative thought response could be:
“Thank you Self for helping me see that this is painful. Do I have any options that I want to explore to get out of this situation?”
This curiosity can only occur if you can take the moment to pause and feel grateful. This gratitude will help you get back to feeling joyful again.
So the answer might be that I don’t have any options. The exit is 5 miles away and I don’t want to go offroading in my Honda Civic. So then you can ask yourself, “What’s enjoyable about this situation?”
The thoughts might look like this…
- I’m grateful for the long grass next to me because it makes me think about how many bugs are in that grass just going about their day not worried about the traffic.
- I’m grateful for the person next to me who seems to be really enjoying their music because they are tapping their finger on their steering wheel and they have a slight smile on their face.
- I’m grateful for my own music because I can pick anything that I want and jam out myself.
See how the gratitude can bring you back to center and help you find solutions that you wouldn’t have discovered if you had allowed yourself to remain caught in suffering.
Suffering Will Happen
I’ll be honest, I still suffer a lot. I probably suffer about 30% of the time and feel joyful 30% of the time. The other 40% I’m neutral. I don’t feel too strongly one way or the other. If I suffer 30% and I’m awake for 16 hours then I probably suffer about 5 hours a day. That’s a lot and I’m working to reduce it to 10%.
I think some suffering is good. It helps keep things in perspective. If every moment was easy I wouldn’t be designing solutions like I am right now. It also allows me to feel life differently. We can’t eliminate suffering. Suffering is part of the human existence, but we can be grateful for it because it teaches us so much.
There are an infinite amount of ways to look at a situation. Remember my example of my friend leaving a job to go and be a teacher? At her previous job, she never thought to see the hot water as something so glorious. She took it for granted.
She could have also looked at that hot water as…
- The beauty of mother nature.
- The cool system our society has created to be able to access on-demand hot water whenever we need it.
- The beauty of Hydrogen and Oxygen (aka H2O)
- The amazing life giver that water is.
- How warm water feels good on her skin.
- How warm water is a privilege.
The list can go on forever. It’s only your imagination holding you back.
I often find myself “seesawing” between 3 states of being:
Before I shift and have a chance to think of anything there is always this neutral state. This is where I think most animals are most of the time. They aren’t joyful or suffering; they just take the situation for what it is and go about their day.
We have this same capacity, but we have an option that most animals don’t. We can transform almost any situation into something that brings us joy.
It just requires us to be able to appreciate our thoughts and use them as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.
This is how many of the old philosophers shined. They didn’t need science to prove to them that this works. They instinctively were able to find time to reflect on their thoughts. They didn’t just rush to the next thing to avoid suffering. They used it to help them grow stronger and then teach others how to do the same.
Take the Bring Gratitude Quiz and see how grateful you are. It might be able to help you see how likely it will be for you to sit down and meditate once a day.