I’d consider Ekhart Tolle a good buddy of mine but I can’t say I liked him upon first meeting. He highlighted the habitual way I referred to troubles of my mind, ways that were limiting and disempowering.
It was Ek who bust through my self-imposed suffering when he wrote something along the lines of, ‘We either chose to evolve or to suffer’.
When I first heard of Ek’s stance he was not my favourite person but he had a point and a radically honest one at that, which set me on a path of illumination.
Throughout my personal journey, sustainable mental health never rested surefootedly on an attitude of suffering. It was, however, defined by suffering, and other qualities including torment, torture, agony, trauma, restlessness and despair.
But the blanket statement, ‘I suffer from X’ – be it depression, bipolar or a diagnosable disorder, hindered, rather than helped me emerge from my suffering, and I will explain why.
Understanding the nature of one’s own mind is a complex and multidimensional study. The psyche crosses so many boarders of perspective; it requires an open-mindedness to accept the mystery of the human mind itself.
My young adulthood – through my young eyes – was seen through vistas of sufferable moments. No matter how many different perspectives I took, I always experienced a degree of melancholy, emptiness and despondency that seemed to set me a part from the population. I was clearly someone who ‘suffered from depression’. There was no questioning that my lackluster mood, my inability to meet the mornings with gusto, my low self-esteem and my tendency to self-harm rather than self-care, placed me well-positioned on the spectrum of suffering – in fact, bang on suffering.
I grew so attached to the term that I identified with it, not only in symptomatic ways relative to mental illnesses, but I discovered my suffering in the far reaches of Existential philosophy, Modernist literature, Buddhist teachings and Mysticism; in the reflections of the people around me who were also ‘suffering’ from a ‘mental illness’ and in favour with a commonplace attitude that life was meant to be a struggling drag.
Suffering ushered me towards dark corners of suicide and private violence. It provided me with ample reasoning to feel depressed, look depressed and stay depressed, based on the stories I had gathered from my traumatic life.
Suffering became my excuse for over-sleeping, over-eating, over-reacting and under-trying – all habitual responses to my habitual state of mind that had decided to keep suffering. I had clinical diagnoses to prove it. I had scars, unhealed, to un-soothe it. And in the company of a culture also suffering mental illnesses galore, I had few reasons to believe I could improve it.
But I had totally missed the point in my surefootedness of being a ‘sufferer’ because by falling victim to my ‘mental illness’ I was failing my self.
You see, any riddle of the mind requires a firm commitment from the mind itself to challenge its thoughts, and until that mind continues to choose to suffer, it is given no chance to prove otherwise.
I could tick all the boxes of depression, bipolar and PMS but had failed to check off the multiple-choices that just might put my suffering to rest:
a) choose to suffer
b) choose to evolve
c) choose to evolve through my suffering
d) Read more Ekhart Tolle
As confronting as the multiple choices appeared, I was grateful to have multiple chances. Each choice offered a new way of seeing my suffering differently; ways that would help me leave my suffering way behind.
To be continued…