Why We Suffer

The egoic mind is the cause of suffering. Nothing more. Suffering only happens in response to a thought. We suffer because we think something about what is happening, what happened, or what might happen. We create a story about what is, what was, or what will be; then we suffer over it. We particularly suffer over fears, which are negative ideas about the future, although any idea can cause suffering if it is believed.

Even positive ideas can cause suffering. Something as simple as, “I’m doing great” can cause suffering because there will come a time when the egoic mind will declare, “I’m not doing great.” Every positive thought has as much potential for suffering as a negative one because it carries with it the fear of losing what is desired.

In either case, whether we are thinking a positive or negative thought, we have thought the egoic self into existence. The me is created through thought. Before thought, there was no egoic self, only the Self. The birth of the me is the cause of suffering. The two go hand in hand. The me and its story is about separation, and separation is painful. Anytime the focus is on the me, we suffer, whether the me is being painted positively or negatively.

We suffer not only because we make ourselves separate from others, but also because we make ourselves separate from the Self. However, this suffering is not a mistake; it is part of the Self’s plan too. Suffering is what wakes us up out of the egoic state of consciousness. It is not only grist for the egoic self’s mill, but also a prod to awaken us to our true nature. Suffering is not a mistake.

Suffering is the result of our programming. We are programmed to have an ego that generates thoughts (including the me thought) that cause suffering. However, we are also given a way out of suffering. Life is like a puzzle: We are being asked to find the solution to suffering. We look here and we look there for the way out: Is eating the way out? Is being busy the way out? Is having more money the way out? Is being famous the way out? Is having the right relationship the way out? No, no, no, no, and no. We eventually discover that none of these things are the way out. Then what is?

After looking in all these directions and more, we begin looking into philosophies and teachings that might have the answer. Is psychotherapy the way out? Is meditation the way out? Is a vegan diet the way out? Is yoga the way out? Are affirmations the way out? No, no, no, no, and no.

When we are ready, a teacher appears who has found the way out. “You don’t exist,” the teacher says. “If that’s the truth, I don’t want to hear it,” we say. And we go back to looking somewhere else. Finally, we run into the Truth enough times that it can’t be denied.

What a shock. What a blow. No me. What now? How will life be lived? You don’t know. You drop all pretense of knowing and just let yourself not know. Not knowing is the natural state. However, this not-knowing is not a place of never knowing. Knowing happens; it just doesn’t happen ahead of time, but in each moment. Knowing unfolds from one moment to the next. Who knows about the next moment? We only know about the present moment. This is how life is lived without the me: from moment to moment.

To begin to live in the moment more fully, we have to become aware of our egoic mind, what it is thinking, and how true those thoughts are. The good news is we don’t have to do anything to develop that awareness. We have always been aware of our mind or we wouldn’t be able to recount what is in it or think about our thoughts. Something else is present besides the mind that has always been aware of it and everything else that is occurring in the sensory mechanism we call our body. This awareness, this Noticer, this observer, is you, the real you.

Exercise: Noticing the Real You

Who or what is it that is aware of reading these words? Notice that awareness. How do you experience it? What does it feel like? Where do you experience it? Is it contained anywhere? Just stay with the experience of it for a moment. This is who you are. The experience of who you are is available in every moment. All you have to do is give your attention to the real you instead of to the egoic mind.

From Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening by Gina Lake

Copyright © 2008 Gina Lake