Hello! Seiiti Arata. There is an old story that a merchant once came home, and was surprised to see that his house had been looted and burned down by bandits. Everything he had was stolen or burned. But the merchant’s only concern was whether his son was well.
Searching everywhere, he found a burnt body. Immediately he began to cry uncontrollably, believing that body was his son. The merchant didn’t know that, in fact, his son was alive. The boy had been taken prisoner by the bandits, who would sell the boy as a slave in another village.
Knowing nothing of this, the merchant had finished cremating the body he found and put the ashes in a velvet bag. From that day on, he carried the velvet sack everywhere, day and night, always thinking of the son he had lost.
Some months passed until the boy managed to escape from the village where he lived as a slave.
After much difficulty, the boy was able to return to the city where he lived. In the middle of the night, he found his father’s new house and started knocking on the door, happy to finally find his family.
Awakened by the noise in the middle of the night, his father, who was still very sad and carrying the ashes in the velvet bag, asked who was knocking at the door at night.
And the boy replied: it’s me, your son!
In that moment, the man was furious.
“You brat with no respect! Stop tormenting me! My son died months ago! I have his ashes here with me! Leave me alone and go away!”
The boy insisted and tried in every way to prove that he was the son who was alive. But his father was convinced that he believed that his actual son was dead. He was sure the kid on the other side of the door was some rude boy who just wanted to torment him.
After much trying, the boy eventually gave up and left, losing his father forever.
Do you tell yourself stories that you believe are true?
Let’s think about this story for a while. Let’s question a few truths that we embrace with such blind certainty.
Have you ever stopped to think about how many stories you end up taking as absolute truth?
What are we failing to notice because of these stories? How many truths do we need to open the door on?
If you stop to reflect, the criteria we define to live our own lives are nothing more than stories we tell ourselves. From these criteria, we judge both our conduct and the behaviour of others.
These stories can help or hinder us. When stories strengthen us, we gain focus, self-confidence, and motivation to live life according to our ideals.
But when stories hinder us, we are often stuck with completely unnecessary beliefs, limitations, and sufferings.
What’s worse is that most of us create much more limiting stories than empowering beliefs.
There is a way for you to understand how stories may be helping or harming you. For this exercise, you will need a moment alone to reflect and write.
On a piece of paper or even on your computer, write down the great truths you truly believe in. Write your truths for the most important areas of your life, such as family, relationships, health, career, and finances. If you need to, pause to write before we move on.
Finished writing? Now read all of these truths with a fresh mindset, and you’ll realise that they are just stories that you tell yourself.
If you’re like most people, you probably carry within yourself a lot more stories that cause suffering than empowering stories.
Take another look at what you wrote. Which of your stories are causing suffering?
Is it because you don’t have something? Not having a goal, a material good or even the appearance you would like to have?
Is it because your sports team has lost or because your favorite politician isn’t in power?
Is it because you didn’t end up with the person you wanted, or because you didn’t date your childhood crush? Because you don’t have a certain skill, such as knowing a foreign language, speaking in public or making sales?
In all these cases, you firmly believe that the lack of what you don’t possess is the main cause for suffering.
But there are other cases. You can suffer because you believe you have something.
Maybe you have a chronic illness? Or that you have debts? Or family issues? Or a noisy neighbour? Maybe you’re addicted to drugs, television or video games?
In these cases, you firmly believe in the truth that possessing something that you don’t want to have is cause for suffering.
Let go of the stories and face the truth
One of the best ways for you to reduce the suffering in your life is to detach from the stories and face the truth.
This isn’t an easy path to go down. To walk this path, you need to raise your level of awareness. You need to realise that some things you take as truth in reality are just stories you tell yourself.
This attachment to the stories we take as truth ends up closing our minds. And closing our minds hurts us because we end up finding it harder to learn new things and improve our social skills. In extreme cases, attachment to stories and having a closed mind can also lead us to fanaticism and intolerance.
Our stories usually have a certain basis in reality, but this reality is modified by our interpretation. By our desire for how we would like things to be.
To detach yourself from these stories, you need wisdom to identify the boundaries between reality and interpretation. And what are the areas in which you can develop by questioning the old “truths.”
When we cling to false truths and are closed to any questioning, we become incapable of living life as it is. Incapable of being in the present moment. Incapable of observing reality with clarity and objectivity.
Without knowing it, we end up being unable to open the door to the things we value most in life. Like the merchant who didn’t open the doors to his own son, because he believed the story that the ashes he had in the bag were the ashes of his son.
This happens a lot more than we would like. We’re trapped because of barriers that we build in our own minds.
That’s why it’s very important to continue developing our clarity, allowing questions and decision making with reason and wisdom. If you don’t open your mind, you can be imprisoned by your lack of inquiry and curiosity.
We can cause ourselves and others much suffering when we’re caught up in stories we take as truths. When we’re enslaved by inconvenient desire, without living the present moment.
It is our choice to end this suffering. It is our choice to live consciously and continually develop ourselves.
If you’re interested in personal development to achieve this freedom, watch our special lesson on how to achieve improvements in your life starting with yourself. Go to https://arata.se/personaldevelopment to continue this conversation.