Your suffering is created by your mind

Hello! Seiiti Arata. There are two layers in any situation of suffering. There is what happens in the world in an objective way, that is, whatever is any independent observer can see and come to the same conclusion. And there is the suffering that only exists in your mind.

For example, your car was parked on the street last night and, this morning, the car is no longer there and was probably stolen or towed. One thing that everyone can objectively agree on is that the car is no longer there. Another situation, you tripped over a ladder and broke your leg. Everyone will objectively agree, seeing that you had an accident and are now in a cast and with the result of the x-ray, that you broke your leg. This is the objective layer.

The second layer is the interpretation, the judgment, of what is in your head. This second layer depends on you, on your interpretation of objective facts. So it is a subjective layer.

Most of human suffering is precisely in this subjective layer, in the story you tell yourself. Suffering is blaming yourself for recklessly parking your car on the street or that you should be more careful when coming down the stairs. 

To suffer is to become very angry at the lack of security on the street or angry at the stairs for not having a handrail for you to hold on to during the fall. These are all stories that you tell inside your head and that other people may or may not agree with.

The solution to suffering is inside your head.

If most of the problem of suffering is in our mind, the solution to the problem is to transform our mind.

Unwanted objective situations can make you angry, afraid or sad.

You can see these situations as valuable opportunities for you to practice your patience, your emotional control, your conscience. Each unpleasant situation is a chance for you to train your mind transformation.

When unwanted things happen, do what you can to remedy and also prevent them from happening again. But at the same time, realize that it will be of little use to be angry, losing your temper, making a fuss, feeling remorse, guilt, suffering.

A good way to train your mind for this transformation is to view life in two different areas. The first area is the external world, that of objective facts. We have little control over the outside world. The second field is the internal world, the way we interpret objective facts. And the good news is that we can control this internal world.

Unhappiness occurs when I condition my happiness to factors that are external and that I cannot control.

Happiness is not lasting when it depends on external facts.

We have a very bad habit of conditioning our happiness to the achievement of external goals. When I finish high school, then I will be happy. When I graduate from college, I will be happy. When I get a job, when I have a salary raise, when I get married, when I buy a house, when I have children, when I retire… and so life goes on and we always condition our happiness to a future and uncertain event.

The problem is that whenever we achieve one of these goals, happiness is fleeting. Soon we set another goal and restart an endless cycle of suffering.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Happiness is in your mind and not in external goals. We can work on our internal sense of gratitude while pursuing our goals. We can be thankful for what we have and still seek new goals, as long as it is done with detachment, always trying to interpret the external facts in the most favorable way possible for our happiness.

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You don’t have to stop having desires or seeking results. However, avoid attachment to desires and results.

You can dream big. Even when you have a very big goal, the less attached you are, the less you will suffer. For example, I dream about having a sculptural body, but I still have morbid obesity. The distance is enormous. But if I know how to accept the reality of the present moment, if I am doing what I can do, if I love myself, if I am not attached, I will not suffer.

On the other hand, if I wish things were just a little bit different, if I am attached to that desire, I will suffer. I may already have a sculptural body that causes envy in everyone around me. But if my body fat index is nine percent and I would like it to be eight percent and I am attached to this result, it can make me suffer.

Do you understand? In these examples, suffering is not about the greater or lesser amount of transformation needed. It is not about the distance between my aspiration and my results. It is not about how much I still have to do to achieve my dream. Suffering has to do with my attachment.

We can have all the dreams in the world and be ambitious, but we must be careful not to be trapped by our dreams and condition our happiness to those desires. I want to be at peace with what I am, with what I live. This may seem like conformism, but it is not. It is a way of knowing how to deal with reality and thus be happier.

You will hardly find suffering in the present moment.

If we were able to pay attention only to the objective world, our lives would have very few moments of suffering.

Do not confuse pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. Considering that you are a person who has your basic needs for food, housing and health met, it is more likely that your objective life has few moments of suffering.

The problem is that we don’t just focus on the objective world, at the present moment. Our mind is always wandering to other moments, whether remembering a past with everything that could have been and that was not, or imagining a perfect future so full of conditions that it will never actually happen.

You can now begin to control your mind to focus on the present moment. It’s quite simple, you just have to want it.

This happens with a simple careful observation of what exists in the Now.

Think about chronic health problems or physical pain. There is an inevitable layer of pain, which is the pain or disease itself… and there is the optional suffering layer in self-criticism or lack of acceptance for having that pain or disease.

When you are sick, you can simply observe what has happened and seek to remedy what is possible. Pain is not pleasant, but it is inevitable and part of a life whose elements we do not have full control over.

The problem is that we often create an optional second layer of suffering in our mind. If I think the situation is unfair, if I get angry, if I feel guilty. I wonder: Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?

We have to identify ourselves with this suffering. This suffering often ends up even greater than the pain or illness itself. Worse than having a back pain, for example, is to blame yourself for trying to carry that heavy box without asking for help or being angry with your own body.

This is not only true for pain and illness. In everything in our life there is the layer of what happens and the layer of how I interpret what happens. This second layer is mental and depends exclusively on me.

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You are not your mind.

Another good way to lessen your mental suffering is to understand that you are not your mind, you are not your thoughts. When something bad happens and we interpret it in a way that causes us more suffering, we can end up identifying ourselves with our own mind.

A metaphor can help you understand this disidentification between you and your mind. Think of your mind as a busy road, where thousands of cars go by all the time. When we identify with some thought, it is as if we try to grab one of these cars. We end up being dragged where the car goes.

You can increase your happiness levels if you don’t try to grab any of those cars, if you don’t get attached to any of those thoughts. Instead, think of yourself as an observer on the edge of this busy road. You look closely at each passing car, but don’t cling to any of them. And as a consequence, you are not dragged.

You are not the thoughts that are in your mind. You are the person who observes these thoughts. Every subjective suffering you face is a mental process that you can let go. You don’t need to identify yourself with those thoughts. Transforming your mind means changing your relationship with thoughts, emotions, feelings and images in your head. This is how changes in an objective life arise.

Mindfulness is realizing the present moment.

In recent times, the term mindfulness has gained increasing importance. This expression means being mindful of what you are doing in the present moment, without being distracted by the ramblings of your mind or external stimuli.

You act consciously, aware of what you are doing. If you are walking, you may be aware of your movements… or you may be distracted in a world of fantasies created by your mind and when you return home you do not even know exactly where you have been, what you have seen, how you have moved and, especially, how it felt.

Mindfulness helps to regulate our attention to the immediate experience and not on autopilot, to put our attention on the now, to experience the moment as it is.

Every event contributes to the person you are today.

Your story is what makes you who you are today. It is also because of pain, failure, disappointment and even abuse that you are the person you are today.

My growth is also based on my indignation. My values ​​exist because of what I don’t agree with and what happened to me in the past. When I experience things I don’t like, I develop an aspiration for something better. And it happens from the pain. So, if you are going to blame your past for your pain, blame it for the success you have.

But remember: Your past does not determine your future. Don’t be sorry for the past. Don’t justify failures in the past. Learn from it, use the pain of the past as a way to build your better future.

Observe what is in your mind without reacting or judging. Just watch the cars passing by on the side of the road, without judging.

If you catch yourself in the act of trying to cling to one of these cars, be aware of how bad that attachment is, how it increases your suffering and decreases your levels of happiness.

Unlike the external world, over which you have little control, in the internal world you have feelings that you can control. You can improve the way you deal with emotions, just realize the present moment, without judging or evaluating. This is a choice you can make now.

Most of the problems we face come up in our minds. Therefore, the solution to these same problems involves the transformation of the mind. External facts, which you cannot control, should not be a condition for your happiness.

To increase your happiness levels, learn to tame the way you interpret these external facts, trying to focus more and more on the present moment with mindfulness. Remember that you are not your thoughts and that all events contribute to the person you are today.

If you want access to guided activities to increase your happiness, Arata Academy has a positive psychology course focused on increasing your happiness levels. It’s the Happiness course. To learn about this new course, access now.