Learning to Choose Freedom
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” This Buddhist proverb speaks volumes in only a few words. Pain is a part of the human condition, as is joy. When our souls took on this human form, we knew both extremes would be faced. But when it comes to suffering, we actually do have a choice.
In the book “Man’s Search forMeaning,” author Viktor Frankel said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Life sometimes chooses for us when it comes to pain, as circumstances we face can be beyond our control. But suffering … this we often do to ourselves.
“To be born in the history of human incarnation is to experience the ever changing duality of day and night, gain and loss, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain,” best-selling author and Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield explains in the March 2012 issue cover story. “But when there is a loss, or blame or pain, depending on how we respond to it, it can either turn to compassion and freedom, or it can turn to increased suffering.”
For many of us, the first sign of pain ignites the automatic response to suppress it, hide from it, deny it and run as fast as we can from it. But in doing this we ensure suffering later — be it disease, depression, anxiety, or the inevitable explosion of emotion at the wrong place and time. Kornfield has spent more than 30 years of his life dedicated to helping people learn the Buddhist practices he studied in Asia, where he eventually became ordained as a Buddhist monk. These include the universal practices of mindfulness, compassion and loving-kindness.
“You can practice compassion and loving-kindness silently without looking weird when you are on the subway, in an airplane, in slow traffic or while waiting on line at the supermarket,” Kornfield explains. “A moment’s well-wishing — first for yourself and then for others — transforms that moment and transforms that day for you. Once you learn these trainings, it only takes a moment.”
In every issue of Elevated Existence, we strive to offer you tools that you can take straight from the pages of the magazine and into your everyday life, and through our interview with Kornfield, we offer a number of them. In the March 2012 issue, we also have a feature on an amazing technique called the Sedona Method. Again, instead of ignoring painful emotions, thoughts or memories, this method invites us to sit with them, accept them, and simply choose to let them go.
It’s extremely liberating to know we don’t have to suffer in this life. We may not have been equipped with these tools growing up, but it’s never too late to learn them. We can learn to choose freedom rather than suffering, and I hope this issue helps you start doing just that.
Blessings and love to you all!
Founder, Publisher & Editorial Director
Elevated Existence Magazine