It takes little effort to see how much we suffer. Look at people’s faces, or read the newspaper. Everywhere people’s hearts ache. Yet if you ask most of them about their own lives, they will lie about their confusion and unhappiness. “No, I don’t have any pain in my heart,” they will say. “Look at how full my life is, look at all the people around me, look at all my plans to get even more.”
Unless we accept the reality of our lives, nothing will change. We all have the same suffering, anger, doubt, anxiety over the future, and regret over the past. The specific ghosts that haunt us are particular to our own experience, but we all feel the same shakiness. We work hard to hide this from ourselves and others. We put forward our own masks and believe in those of others. We point to people who seem to have their lives in order and say, “Look at old Charlie. He’s doing great. He never loses his temper, and look at how successful he is.” No one wants to see that Charlie goes home at night and drinks to forget himself, or buries himself in the television; that he cruelly torments himself and his family in ways so subtle that no one recognizes it for what it is.
One way we preserve our masks is to avoid taking responsibility for our pain by finding some outside cause to explain it. We blame our depression on someone’s thoughtless remark, or the weather. We justify our anger by pointing to someone else’s careless stupidity. We never question the necessity of the reaction in the first place, let alone wonder whether the feeling might have been there all the time, and just emerged when conditions gave it an excuse to surface.
Is psychological pain necessary, or can we reach a place within ourselves that is beyond the reach of all punishing reactions? Are we meant to suffer from a ceaseless inner war whose struggles profit none, or is there a higher meaning to life — one that makes everything make sense? The answer to these questions is yes. Absolutely yes! And if you are sincere about questions such as these, and want the higher life more than you want to “win” wars, there is something you can do to start receiving the genuine answers that lead to complete inner victory, and you can start by doing something completely new with your old pains… [to be continued]