"Life means suffering."
Truth #1 of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism
I've been pondering about the amount of suffering there is in the world these days. Perhaps my awareness has been heightened by these turbulent times, coupled with an increase sense of compassion that has grown in me with the years.
I realize that, as Buddha said, that there is suffering in life, but it seems to me that it's useful to look at it as either 'necessary suffering' or 'unnecessary suffering.' Of course, this is a somewhat artificial distinction but it still seems a useful distinction to make
In other words, in life there's some suffering which is just a normal part of life. You might even say, it's an appropriate response to aspects of living. For example, it seems natural for the loss of a loved one to result in the suffering that comes with grief. I even believe it's a healthy part of the healing process, particularly if one doesn't extend it out for years.
I don't not think I would want to become so hardened or unattached from the world that if one of my beloved pets, or a friend or family member were to die, that I would not grieve.
But then there's the other side of the coin — the amount of "unnecessary suffering" that we can inflict upon ourselves and those around us.
What about that? Is it not possible to eliminate much of this needless angst and suffering from our lives?
Life is Meant to Be About More than Just Surviving
For example, as I was preparing this article, I received the following Life On Purpose Self Test results from someone who found us by surfing the internet:
YOUR SCORE: 51 out of a possible 200.
YOUR RESULTS: Surviving
ANALYSIS OF RESULTS: At this level you're getting by in your life, although many times it may feel like something is missing. Those feelings could be your soul beginning to awaken to the rich possibilities that lie ahead. Trust those feelings and begin to ask your 'inner guidance system' for what's needed to begin fulfilling your life. To do this, you'll need time for quiet reflection. Carving out this time in your life will be richly rewarding, especially if you then follow the suggestions that arise from these moments.
My heart goes out to folks who are courageous enough to use the Self Test to take a close and honest look at their life and find that they are either 'adrift,' 'surviving' or 'striving' — the 3 lower results level of the Self Test.
And yet, I wonder how many people realize that there's a lot of unnecessary suffering that gives them these results? I know when I look at my own life, even though my recent Self Test score was markedly higher, I'm still amazed at how much unnecessary suffering I manage to create in my own life.
So, how do we go about eliminating the unnecessary suffering from our lives?
The Source of the Unnecessary Suffering
"The origin of suffering is attachment."
Truth #2 of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism
If I may, I'd like to look at this 2nd Noble Truth from the Life On Purpose Perspective. From this perspective the source of the attachment is the fear and lack-based thinking and emotions of the Inherited Purpose that is constantly telling us how life 'should' be and how we 'ought' to be or not be, or what we should or shouldn't do…ad nauseam.
Now, here's the sneaky part of the Inherited Purpose. Because it becomes formed during the 'formative years' of our childhood from times when we felt threatened or unsafe, it sits quietly in the background of our awareness most of the time where it shapes our lives without us even realizing it.
It's like sitting in a room that you think is nice and quiet until suddenly the central air conditioning cuts off and you realize there was a soft hum in the background.
So, is there a way to take back control from your Inherited Purpose? Well, according to Noble Truth #3, the answer is YES — "The cessation of suffering is attainable."
Pulling the Curtain On the Wizard of Your Past
Everyone remembers the story of The Wizard of Oz, but you may not realize what a transformational story it is. You see, the Wizard manipulated Dorothy and her friends to bring him the witches broomstick using fear and intimidation. In exchange, it would send Dorothy home.
But there was a moment when he lost his power of them — when Toto, the dog pulled the curtain revealing that there really wasn't a "Great and Mighty Oz" but just a little old man with a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
The same is true of our Inherited Purpose. The more we can pull the curtain on it by pulling it from the background of our awareness to the foreground, the less power it will have in shaping our lives.
But how to get started? For many people, uncovering their Inherited Purpose is like trying to look at the back of your head without a mirror. You know it's back there somewhere and maybe you can catch a glimpse of it if you could just turn your head fast enough….ouch, turned it too fast.
Truthfully, this is where a coach can be most helpful by being your set of mirrors to help reflect back to you what shapes your life during times you feel threatened or unsafe.
But here's where to start the process.
Imagine you're about to go to see a very special movie entitled, "The Life and Times of _________ (fill in the blank with your name). In other words you're going to view the movie of your life, but this time rather than being the main character in the movie, you'll be sitting in the movie theatre as a movie reviewer.
And the primary question you'll be asking is: What is the theme of this movie?
Remember, the Inherited Purpose is based in fear, lack and struggle, so focus on those early formative years when you first remember being afraid, or felt like there wasn't enough of something (not enough time, money, or enough of yourself as in "I'm not smart enough, etc.)
This is not an easy exercise, made even more challenging by the fact that the Inherited Purpose has not interest in being drawn out. Remember, even as Toto was pulling the curtain, the little old man was yelling, "Ignore that man behind the screen."