Coping with the Human Condition.
Thoughts of a carer on handling difficult times:
When you live with a bad situation that can’t be controlled or improved, it’s like your life has been turned UPSIDE DOWN!
You can’t force things to get better, but you can heal your mind.
None of us can escape disappointment and sorrow in life.
They’re part of the Human Condition, largely because we don’t control a lot of what happens to us.
We have to ACCEPT whatever life is serving up at the moment.
When you live in a bad situation, all your plans get UPENDED, leaving us with a life UPSIDE DOWN!
When we become aware of the mental and emotional challenges that accompany a bad situation, it becomes easier to ADJUST and ACCEPT our new lifes.
Recipe for Peace of Mind:
One dose of stark reality—our lives and the people in them, are uncertain and unpredictable and do NOT always conform to what we want.
ACCEPTING this is the first step toward making peace with our circumstances.
One dose of practical skills—learning mindfulness.
One dose Humour—good medicine for the heart and mind.
Our inner freedom, freedom from suffering, is limitless regardless of our external circumstances
There are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it!
The Want Monster whispers: If only you could get your health back, everything would be rosy.
I then realize that this is a delusion, if my health was restored, my life would STILL have problems.
Complaining is a recipe for suffering, it centers around a desire to control what’s happening to us.
A stark reality is that we have limited or NO control how things will unfold in any given moment.
It’s how we RESPOND to a bad situation that makes us miserable or content. If we resist and try to change it, we suffer!
To get peace we have to ACCEPT AND ADAPT.
A Basic Mindfulness Practice:
Take three or four deep conscious breaths—the sensation of the breath is a good anchor, because it takes place in the Present Moment.
The Three Components of Physical Discomfort:
The unpleasant sensation, pain, aching nerves and muscles, etc.
You emotional reaction to that discomfort, fear, irritation, anger.
Stressful thoughts related to the first two.
If you RESIST stressful thoughts and emotions you create suffering for yourself.
But if you RESPOND with ACCEPTANCE your suffering is eased.
It helps to remember that when we see cheerful people, we’re only seeing their public faces. We don’t know what their inner life is like.
They are probably stressful just like us.
We are all subject to illness, injury, aging, and separation from loved ones.
No one gets a pass on this.
Your carer is suffering right along with you.
Their life is also turned UPSIDE DOWN!
One reality of the Human Condition is:
IMPERMANENCE. Everything is in flux from moment to moment, including our physical and mental states.
Uncertainty is a fact of life.
The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our PRESENCE!
Between the carer and the caree many of the difficulties we face overlap.
We’re both isolated socially, we don’t travel much anymore and we both face uncertainty about the future.
The worst loneliness is to NOT be comfortable with yourself.
Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept the way things are.
This is very difficult at the start!
The wisest response to bad situations that are beyond our control, circumstances we cannot change, is:
NONCONTENTION—which is NO struggling or fighting the situation.
Life is suffering. All of us can expect to encounter: birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, pain, grief, getting what we don’t want and losing what we have.
What all these items have in common is that none of them are pleasant experiences; they are mentally painful or physically painful or BOTH!
Relentless effort to escape what we cannot escape and to change what we cannot change, this leads us to be miserable.
The good news is that we CAN reach the end of suffering in the mind, even while still suffering in body.
There are 3 experiences that are common to the life of every human being:
With impermanence comes uncertainty and unpredictability.
BUT, we crave the opposite—security and assurance.
The fact that every aspect of our life is uncertain, unpredictable and in constant flux—we have to look after each moment, cherishing what we still can do, aware that everything could change in an instant.
What am I? I am a flow-through of matter, energy and information.
Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”
The NO SELF statement—“I think, but I am NOT my thoughts.”
NO SELF, NO PROBLEM!
The core of Buddha’s teachings:
Our lives are full of suffering so there are practices that can lead to the end of that mental suffering.
The 4 Sublime States:
Kindness; treating ourselves and others with kindness.
Compassion; reaching out to help yourself and others.
Empathetic Joy; feeling joyful when others are happy.
Equanimity; being at peace no matter what our circumstances.
Empathetic Joy is central to coming to terms with the life I can no longer lead.
You need the ability to share others’ joy, otherwise you will be steeped in ENVY!
Life’s limitations apply to carers as well as the ill, because they also have to forgo activities.
At first, feeling joyful just because others were happy was a SHEER ACT OF WILL. But if you stick with the practice, slowly the fake joy turns into genuine joy.
Equanimity is mental calmness especially in difficult situations.
The ill face each day not knowing which symptoms will hit us hard on a particular day.
The ill and their carers don’t know how they will react to the bad situation they are in from day to day.
IT’S DIFFICULT TO STAY CALM IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES!
Letting Go involves the peaceful ACCEPTANCE of the unexpected and unwanted situations that arise in our lives.
YOUR SUFFERING ARISES FROM YOUR INTENSE DESIRE FOR CERTAINTY AND PREDICTABILITY.
If you could Let Go of the worry just a little because you have NO control over the bad situation anyway.
If you could Let Go completely, you would have peace and freedom and your struggles would come to an end.
THE PRESENT MOMENT IS A REFUGE.
Listening to your breath, in and out, this anchors you in the Present Moment.
The past is history. The future is a mystery. The Present is a gift.
WISE ACTION is action that leads to the cessation of suffering.
WISE INACTION can be thought of as NOT engaging in actions that make us feel bad.
Sometimes people are under so much stress that they can’t meditate. What to do?
Just sit and do nothing for 5 or 10 minutes.
When I’m doing nothing I feel calm and receptive.
This practice is relaxing, restorative and feels good.
Carers should share with friends and family how hard it is for them at times to provide care.
There will be days when you’re NOT up to the task.
So practice Patient Endurance, we face hardship without giving up.
Even at home, care givers may be isolated from their loved one.
The ill loved one fines it hard to visit with the carer.
The carer has great frustration at not being able to make their spouse better.
Living with illness and care giving is a work in progress.
Some days you cry out: I wish things were different—but the situation is what it is!
TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE; DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES ARE PRESENT IN THE LIVES OF ALL BEINGS.
HAVING BEEN BORN, WE ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE, ILLNESS AND DEATH.
IT HAPPENS DIFFERENTLY FOR EACH PERSON.
To sum up: When facing difficult times:
Let It Go
Let It Be
Then you will have PEACE OF MIND.