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Buddhism

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"Pain Is Inevitable; Suffering Is Optional..." (Quote by Haruki Murakami)

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(1 minute, 52 second read)

The Buddha taught that suffering arises when we have attachments to things that we desire. Whether this is in material objects, relationships, or various pleasure in life, the issue is that everything is transient and ultimately, loss is inevitable. We cannot always have the "thing" we want to buy, the trip we want to take, the person who doesn't love us back or that "not-good-for-us-but-wonderful-something" that we wish we could eat, drink, ingest or do.

Buddhism also teaches us that the only constant is change. As long as we draw breath, nothing about our lives is fixed or permanent. When you desire something, you are attempting to control it or make it happen

This is going against the forces of the universe and is a recipe for anxiety, depression, frustration, disappointment and other unpleasant emotions when you are not able to have or achieve that which you desire. This is the cause of suffering.

It is virtually impossible to completely eliminate desire. You can desire water when you're thirsty or food when you're hungry. The conundrum is that when you try to stop desiring something, you're still desiring to stop desiring.

What is most important is to eliminate attachment and desire as much as possible. This is how to end suffering and find true freedom from all anxieties, worries, and troubles.

When I first heard this idea, I thought, "How are we not supposed to feel attached to our children or other loved ones?" It took a while for me to realise that we can love without attachment because they're like comparing apples and frogs. They're not at all the same. We can love our children (and others) for who and what they are without feeling attached to a desire for those relationships to be a certain way.

Sometimes it means letting go of people you love, even if it's your children or other family members. Staying attached to a relationship that isn't working will only bring distress and toxicity to your life.

 
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One significant game-changer in releasing attachment and suffering is in the stories we tell ourselves. A relationship breaks up and we say things like, "I'll never find someone so wonderful again." Or "I'll never be happy again." Or "I'll never get over this."

As long as you choose to think such negative thoughts, you're right, you'll never be happy or find that "someone wonderful." It is up to you to create positive thoughts and to focus on good possibilities and keep your vibration high so you can attract like-minded positive people and situations that will light up your life.

Let go of your negative thinking. Let go of the sad-sack stories. Focus on the good in your life and stop fretting about the past or worrying about the future, for neither exists. The only reality is this present moment, this one, right here, right now. You can choose to make it a happy, positive, blessed moment of gratitude in your life. Or you can suffer through it by dwelling on what's wrong, what you're lacking or will never have.

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With every ending, there's always a beginning.

Generally speaking, our culture is frightened of loss, one of the greatest of which is death. It is a subject that makes people squirm as they try to avoid discussing it. We have all sorts of euphemisms for it, we shield children from it and many of us struggle to cope with the idea of our own mortality.

In a Tarot reading, people come unglued when they see the Death card appear. They think it means they're going to die and once again, we see this aversion to the entire subject. But the Death card means change, transformation. It means death in a symbolic way, followed by rebirth.

And with rebirth comes a new beginning, a fresh start.

Physical death is like this, too, as we shed our bodies and return to the spirit realm. It is simply a transformation, but one that those people left in the earthly realm do not always accept easily.

Endings and beginnings...beginnings and endings...you cannot have one without the other. Too often, endings are not by our own choice, which can make the new beginning at least as difficult. Sometimes even though we need or want change, and we just wish this or that could happen, we're still hanging on to what we've got with a 'have your cake and eat it, too' attitude.

But too often, this is not how it works.  In order for those changes to occur, and for us to get the desired result, we must let go of what we've got now and make room for whatever comes next.

I used to be unbearably sentimental about 'stuff'. I had the most ridiculous keepsakes - ticket stubs, corks from wine shared on a special evening, bits of wrapping paper from special gifts, napkins, swizzle sticks, tiny plastic toys from boxes of popcorn, every card and letter I was ever given, and countless items so silly I can't even remember what they were.

And of course there were more 'normal' items to which I attached myself. Furnishings, ornaments, dishes - and like many people, there was 'my mug'. How many people are very possessive about a particular mug they use for their coffee or tea? Or about their favourite chair at the table, or where they sit in the sitting room? Sheldon's "spot" on the Big Bang Theory, or Archie Bunker's chair on All In The Family...

I used to be very connected to my 'stuff' and even more so to any of it that had even remotely sentimental value.

When I say 'stuff', I'm not just talking about material possessions either. I'm also talking about aspects of my life that were important to me. A relationship or friendship, an activity I loved, or some part of my life that I didn't think I could do without.

I kept focusing on the losses and was so immersed in grief I couldn't stand to be in my own skin.

With an ongoing theme of loss throughout my life, eventually I thought I ought to figure out what I could learn from it so it wouldn't feel so awful.

First, I realised that as long as I focused on the losses, I wouldn't see the many blessings that remained.

Secondly, I discovered that with loss (and all challenges) comes the opportunity for a huge perspective shift. It's a chance to look for the positives, to focus on the happy memories or relationships that are associated with whatever it is that is changing or gone.

And thirdly, there is the Buddhist view that all suffering comes from attachment, and I can certainly say that the less attached I am to any 'stuff', the happier I am because when the 'stuff' goes, without attachment it cannot hurt.

And there is another important point to remember. It's in not focusing on the letting go, the ending, or the completion. It's in focusing on the fresh start, the new beginning and what lies ahead.

Yes, it may be frightening to walk down a new and unfamiliar road, leaving behind everyone and everything familiar. But if that new road has been presented to you, there is a reason for it. You must let go of the old, the stale, the stagnant and finished, and embrace the new, the fresh, the expanding and beginning. Before long, you'll have walked through the endings and blended straight into the beginnings, living the Death card and experiencing rebirth and the magic of renewal. It's a chance to create something different, something better.

The Wheel of Life will always mean there are endings. But the good news is, you cannot have an ending without a beginning.

Sure, you can fear beginnings if you want to do that, but it's better to see them as exciting adventures. A positive attitude will go a long way to reducing the impact of any speed bumps or potholes on that new road so buckle up and don't look back; you already know where you've been.

Now let's see where you're going!

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"A Journey of a Thousand Miles..."

It is said that, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  This is attributed to Lao-Tzu, a brilliant Chinese philosopher who wrote a lot about the Tao.  More correctly, the proper translation from Chinese is "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet."

I love both of these statements.  At first glance, they might seem to have almost identical meanings.  They are thought to be interchangeable but in fact, each is quite different from the other.

Let's take a look at the less-well-known but correct translation first.  "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet."  This is such a beautiful statement.  It's filled with optimism and hope.  It's about looking at where you are, right here, right now, accepting what is, accepting where you're standing now, and not looking behind you, leaving the past where it belongs.

It's about seeing what needs to change in yourself or your life.  It's about preparing for forward movement, for growth.  It's brilliant.  It's exciting.  It's empowering.  It's filled with anticipation.

It leads straight to the more widely known version:  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  This is also very beautiful.  It teaches patience, determination and perseverance in the face of a goal that seems so far away.  It teaches gentleness in the art of change.  You don't have to do it all at once.

It offers hope and encouragement to anyone who is on a difficult path, especially when there is the temptation to give up, or not even start in the first place.

Being aware of what's beneath your feet, and what's at that thousand-mile point will help you to decide where to place your foot with that first step, and all the others that follow.  That first step begins taking you away from where you are now, from what lies beneath your feet.

And if you just keep lifting your foot and putting it down, one foot in front of the other, you will continue to move further away from where you are now, and with each step, a little closer to where you want to be.

Do not fear putting your foot down in the wrong place.  This happens sometimes when you look down at your feet, rather than ahead at your destination but you can correct the problem.  Keep focused on the destination; your feet will follow your eyes.

First:  take a good look at what lies beneath your feet.  Where are you now?  What do you need to accept about your situation?  What is your current reality?  What do you want to change about it?

Second:  It begins with that first step.  Once you know your destination and you have a clear vision of it in your mind, lift a foot and set it down again.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and in time, you will be where you want to be.

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