This has been a tough month for many of our fellow human beings. The northeastern United States was battered with a brutal storm that took over 110 lives and a countless number of people lost their homes and their possessions. The war between Israel and Palestine continues to escalate. After six days of bombings, the death toll in the Gaza Strip reached 102 today. The fighting in Syria appears to have no end in sight. The rebels in Congo have advanced to within a few kilometers of Goma as violence and bloodshed rages on. In the last six weeks, 107 of our fellow human beings lost their lives to yellow fever in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Throughout the world, the human community continues to face immense suffering. Whatever the cause may be, whether self-perpetuated or a result of a natural disaster, the fact remains that we as a people encounter struggle and hardship on a consistent basis.
Many of you reading this may not have been affected by any of the incidents mentioned above, but, I assure you, you are connected to them. For no matter what the cause of the suffering or the degree to which we suffer, the element that unites us as a community is the suffering itself. We all face challenges on a daily basis.
For many of us, these challenges may not be as dire as war, natural disaster, famine or disease, yet some of us make them out to be as such in our minds.
Even while people were losing their homes and their lives during the hurricane, others complained about not having power and struggling through a cold night or two.
My intention here is not to downplay the cold nights experienced by those who lost power during the hurricane, or any other form of struggle experienced by the masses. I am not implying that only those who experience the worst of tragedies are the only human beings on the planet who suffer.
My goal here is to illustrate that our mind creates our reality and that events themselves have no inherent meaning. We create the meaning in our minds.
What is it then that prevents us from stepping outside of ourselves to see the bigger picture? What causes us to be so entrenched in our own reality that we are unable to gain a broader perspective? What causes us to suffer and continue suffering?
The answer is simple. Choice.
Suffering is only as real as we make it in our mind. As a result, a wealthy bridezilla in the midst of a monumental breakdown caused by a glitch in wedding preparations and a homeless orphan on the streets of India may experience the same suffering. That may sound insane to a third party, but the story, or the circumstance is irrelevant to the degree of suffering experienced by the person involved. The degree to which we experience any emotion is a direct result of how we create or perceive an event in our mind. Our struggle is only as real as we want it to be. Or more importantly, as we choose it to be.
Some of you may be thinking this is bullshit. After loosing a loved one or experiencing a tragedy, suffering is not a choice.
(If any of you reading this have experienced such tragedy due to recent events or life in general, I offer my condolences and am very sorry for any loss you have experienced.)
It is natural to experience sorrow and sadness for the loss of a loved one. I myself have lost a very close friend to the war in Iraq and was torn apart by it. Loss is very real and I empathize with those that have experienced it.
I am only stating that it’s what we choose to do with the events in our life that matters, not the event itself.
In A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah recounts the horrific events he experienced during the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. At the age of 13, he lost everyone in his family to war and was forced to become a soldier by the very people who killed his family. During his time in the army, he was indoctrinated into a life of drugs and violence. To this day he remains unable to recall the number of lives he took as child soldier.
Commenting on his experience, he said “if I choose to feel guilty for what I have done, I will want to be dead myself. I live knowing that I have been given a second life, and I just try to have fun, and be happy and live it the best I can.”
Despite losing everything he knew and loved, he chooses to be happy.
Some of the warmest smiles I have ever seen in my life have been at a hospital for lepers and an orphanage in India. These human beings chose to disregard circumstance and empower our only freedom.
No matter what circumstances you face in your life. You get to choose how you perceive them. You get to choose how you respond to them. In that response lies your power, your growth and your freedom.
While watching the news after the Hurricane, I saw one lady who lost her home and everything she owned. Her response to the event was “we lost a lot of memories. Now we will have to create new ones.” I don’t know if I have the courage to respond the way she did, but it inspired me to take a look at where I choose to perceive suffering in my life. I invite you all to do the same.
Where in your life do you choose to suffer?
Where do you choose struggle instead of joy?
What else could you make those events mean in your mind?
I would love to hear from all of you in the comments below.
This will be the first of a series of posts outlining the inner workings of the human experience. These will serve as the introduction of my new show launching early next year, “Our Journey Into the Human Experience.”
The next post will be on how you can make a different choice.