Suffering, Surrender & Grace: Part 2
Suffering, the way of Consciousness
All suffering stems from our mistaken belief that we are a person. An individual with a past and future. This identity seeks to fulfil itself through ambition, status, power, fame and acquisition. It wants to be loved, respected and wanted. When it gets what it wants, it is satisfied momentarily. When it does not get what it seeks, it suffers.
In the previous article Suffering, Surrender & Grace: Part 1, I had mentioned how our approach to suffering can either keep us stuck in the ego, or it can help us transcend it. If we choose the way of the ego we get trapped in the language of right and wrong, storytelling and wanting validation from others.
When we realise that this approach only prolongs our suffering and keeps our energy stuck in the repetitive story of the mind, we may choose to suffer consciously. When we do that we move towards our true self, Consciousness.
What does it mean to suffer consciously? Just as the suffering of the ego has three components, suffering consciously too has three elements.
To suffer consciously means to observe the self. What does that mean? It means to watch what’s happening. If the fear of rejection is drilling a hole in your heart, watch that sensation. If loneliness is squeezing your heart in its cold grip, watch that sensation. If the feeling of being unwanted is doing somersaults in your stomach, watch the sensation. If not anything else, just watch the breath.
Watch what’s happening is another way of saying do nothing. Anything you try to do only activates the ego. The ego thrives through doing. It wants to tell stories, seek healing, find meaning, learn lessons and evolve spiritually. Any agenda of the mind, is the agenda of the ego. Drop all goals and intentions. Just Be.
This is not easy. It is almost like taking a fish out of water. When we do nothing, the ego gasps for breath. It struggles, writhes and thrashes itself against the walls of the mind through stories of right, wrong, blame, judgement, opinions, beliefs, ideas and concepts. It wants you to believe something desperately. Make some meaning out of your suffering. Or escape through some distraction.
Very few humans have the ability to self-observe without any goal or meaning making. Because this process requires us to be alone. Absolutely alone. Not physically, but psychologically. Not relying on any mentor, Guru, friend, relative, counsellor, healer or astrologer to bail us out of our misery.
All suffering stems from our subconscious patterns getting triggered. When we observe this compressed energy, we allow it to get released into awareness. Imagine these negative sensations as emotional knots of personal identity. They unravel in the benevolent gaze of Choiceless Awareness.
Ideally this is where I should end this article. All that is needed to realise Consciousness is Self-Observation. But since it is not easy to simply observe our suffering, I am adding two more components.
Most people do not know how to pray. Or even understand the power of prayer. Growing up in a convent boarding school we used to make fancy prayers before every meal. “God bless the farmers, and thanks for the rain…” Most of us children did not even know why we were saying all this before digging into our favourite choley bhature.
Then I got into spirituality and prayers took on the form of Sanskrit mantras and shlokas. Most of the time I did not understand what they meant, even though I loved the vibrations created through the chanting. Since I did not know Sanskrit or any worship rituals, I felt incapable of reaching out to God.
Until one day God tapped me on the head and said “I am you. You are me. You do not need fancy elocution, Sanskrit or rituals to reach out to me. Just talk to me in the language you are comfortable. About things you are struggling with. Keep your communication simple. If it comes from the depth of your heart it will reach me.”
Since then my prayers are my heartfelt expression to God, in plain English. “Dear God, this is happening, these are the feelings I am struggling with. I surrender these circumstances and feelings to you. I surrender all my plans of actions to you. I empty myself completely for your Grace. All I seek is You.”
This is the general essence of most of my prayers. When I am disturbed, upset, hurt, betrayed or scared I repeat these self-created prayers in my mind again and again. Until my attention shifts from the negative self-talk to a state of surrender and letting go.
That brings me to the final aspect of suffering consciously.
The ego means an opinionated position of the mind. It means an interpretation, a belief, an idea, a perception, a meaning, a principle or a narrative. Ego means thought. Thought means language. Language means a story to tell. All our stories only do one thing. They keep alive the storyteller. The ego. And the source of our suffering is not our story, but the storyteller.
Since we cannot get rid of our mind and our thoughts, at least not immediately, the best approach to the mind is to keep it in a state of neutrality. What does this mean?
Imagine you wanted something. You tried hard to get it. Then you got it briefly and it was taken away from you. Or you did not get it. Or what you have got is not satisfactory, but there is nothing you can do about it. All these scenarios make us helpless and vulnerable. They disarm us. We don’t know what to do?
This is the space of Surrender.
Like telling God “Dear God, I tried various ways to be happy, but they do not work. The more I try the more I suffer. I do not know what to do?”
Being in the space of not knowing, not wanting, not resisting is Surrender.
One could say it is owning up to our vulnerability, and not running away from it. This may seem a space of weakness, but is an extremely powerful space to be in. Letting go of control and the illusion of control. We realise we can only operate out of an intention of goodwill or love, but the actuality of what manifests is not in the hands of our ego. When we try to control life, we create suffering.
When we suffer consciously we become conscious. When we become conscious we realise we are not a person, but Consciousness. The Alive Presence that witnesses all occurrences. When that realisation becomes our lived reality we are free of suffering.
The cause of the suffering is not anyone else but our mistaken idea of ourself. When the dark clouds of mis-identity are dispelled the light of grace dawns as our True Being.