If you read my previous post, then you know all about my experience at a silent meditation retreat in Ireland. While staying within that subject, I thought I would share some deeper, more personal details of this experience.

And how it forever changed my life.

Now keep in mind, this is my personal experience. What I am sharing is not a judgement, it is not an end-all, it is not even some sacred doctrine for anyone to follow or some holy writ I am quoting. It is simply what I took away from it all. What one goes through during a challenge such as this is entirely personal. It will show you sides of yourself you never thought to look at, or simply didn’t even know were there. It was utterly mind blowing!

I learned a great deal during these four days, but there is one thing in particular that changed my life more than anything else…

As humans, we cause our own suffering.

I’ll admit, this was one of the hardest philosophies for me to wrap my brain around (and I still find myself, at times, trying to fit it inside my brain). I mean, how does a person caught up in the inevitable suffering of genocide cause it themselves?! So, I’ll try my best to explain it the way I have come to understand it.

When I say ‘cause our own suffering’ I am not saying whatever horrible things are happening in your life, it’s all your fault. It is the internal struggle, the inner pain that we cause. That is the true root of suffering. It is our minds that cause this. When we grasp to an ideal or an outcome, and experience something not aligned with that, we humans have a tendency to be reactive. Whether it’s stress, heartbreak, loss (of any kind), anger towards another’s actions, illness, jealousy, or any of the array of negative emotions, we are the ones responsible for how we feel about it. No one has control of our emotions, and for a lot of us, we don’t even have control of our emotions. It is all a choice, and it is possible to cultivate the ability to make more peaceful choices.

Clinging to an outcome is the surest way of setting yourself up for a big dose of suffering. I used to be very guilty of this (and sometimes still catch myself slipping back into this old habit). I would want something to go a certain way, and when it didn’t, I would allow myself to feel all the negative emotions and get all worked up and feel awful. But really, it is never necessary to fall down that hole. When something doesn’t go as planned, flow with it. Trust that the plan you had mapped out just wasn’t the right one, and move on.

Easier said than done, I know. But we are all capable of this. You just have to be willing to put in the work. Culture has a tendency to urge us to take care of our physical health (as we should), putting heavy emphasis on diet plans (which are a joke), supplements, gym memberships, and looking a certain way. But what about our mental and spiritual health? That is where it all starts! If you’re not taking care of your head and your heart, and focusing solely on the outer work, you will never find peace and you will never feel whole.

It all starts with your thoughts. That’s it. Learn to get a handle on your thoughts (and you ARE capable of this), and your life will begin to flow with ease. You will be able to deal with the inevitable bumps in the road and not let them knock you off balance.

But you have to start. And it is going to be uncomfortable at first. It’s going to be difficult and there will come a point when you want to give up and fall back into your comfort zone of ignoring your inner world. But if you continue to ignore your inner world, it will eventually collapse around you, taking your outer world with it.

Simply start by sitting down in silence each day for five minutes. Focus on your breath, and relax. At first, your mind will race, your thoughts will be all over the place, and for sure ego will chime in and try to convince you that this is a waste of time. I promise you it is not.

You can do this. You need to do this. This world needs more peace, and peace starts within each and every one of us.

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