All suffering comes from resisting what is

What seems like a long time ago, when I was just starting in the coaching business, my very first coach, a wise man indeed, talked to me about people’s propensity for suffering. He explained that people experience a lot of stress, which is the source of their suffering, and that it is all self-inflicted. We think that it’s the circumstances of life that cause the stress and the suffering, but that is not the case. It’s all how we react to those circumstances. He summed it up simply by saying: all suffering comes from resisting what is.

sufferingDoes that compute? In other words, life happens and we compare what’s happening to what we would like to see happening. If they match, we’re fine. But if they don’t, we suffer, simply because we want things to be the way we want them to be. When they’re not, we don’t seem to have the ability to just allow things to be. We seem to resent that things are the way they are and it’s this resistance which is the source of our suffering.

I have always thought it was a bit bizarre that people went to stress management classes. Why learn to manage something that is totally your creation? Seems a bit crazy to me. Just learn to practice the serenity prayer: Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can think of no better example to demonstrate this phenomenon than what’s going on today with the results of our recent Presidential election. Here’s what is: we have a constitution in the USA, every 4 years we elect a President (and others), there was a long campaign, the Democrats nominated Hilary Clinton, the Republicans nominated Donald Trump, we voted last week, Donald Trump got over 290 electoral college votes and will become the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. Period, end of story.

Given the nature of what has happened in the last year, regardless of who won, at least half of the country was going to be unhappy. Many of those are demonstrating and even worse, rioting. To what end? Will it make a difference? No. He’s going to be the President. The ONLY question for the half who are unhappy is: are you going to suffer or not. Unfortunately, many are choosing to suffer. Makes me sad. I keep telling people to just breath, notice that the earth keeps rotating, life continues, and we’ll see. I think President Obama and Hilary Clinton have been incredibly gracious and we should all take their lead. What’s the point of doing otherwise?

serenity-prayerThe trouble is that all the unhappy people think there really is a point to their demonstrations. There isn’t. It won’t change anything. But it surely demonstrates my wise teacher’s point: all suffering comes from resisting what is. I hope you’re not one of those who are suffering. If you are, just read the serenity prayer repeatedly until it sinks in.

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