Is reality scarier than what the mind can imagine?
I recently watched a documentary in which a hostage captured by a terrorist group told of the adaptive and resilient nature of his fellow captives as they waited in a perpetual state of fear and uncertainty.
In an attempt to relay the depth of anguish experienced at times during his captivity, the man explained that, if given the choice, he would gladly endure physical pain for peace of mind:
"The body has an amazing capacity to adapt, especially when it comes to pain.
If someone would come to me and tell me, 'I will take you in half an hour, to a torture room. I have two pills; here is a stress-killer (pill) and here is a pain-killer (pill). I'll give you ONE of them. You choose.'
I would go, for sure, for the stress killer (pill)."
This recognition, so clearly expressed, speaks to our relationship with mental and emotional stress and the true source of that stress.
For years we have been told and taught that such stress is caused by factors outside of ourselves...factors that exist in the outside world.
I would suggest otherwise, however.
The source of mental and emotional stress does not actually exist in the physical world; it is not caused by a thing or a person or a circumstance outside of our own being.
Mental and emotional stress, in and of itself, is not tangible.
It is not OF the physical world.
It cannot be seen or touched or captured.
It lives in the realm of the invisible...the intangible...the unquantifiable.
It lives in the mind.
It lives in our thoughts.
It lives in the meaning we give our thoughts
the things and people and circumstances that exist in the physical world.
What is poignantly revealed by the man in that passage, is the power of our mind to conjure something from nothing...
the power of our mind
to conjure and create,
from thought alone,
something more frightening and painful than the act itself.
And in so doing,
create emotional, mental and physiological suffering.
As harsh as it may appear to our ears and our very real experience of life...
we must acknowledge that
our mental and emotional suffering is fluid and vacillating and...optional.
We know this because it is never the same from mood to mood, day to day, moment to moment and thought to thought, despite the constancy of circumstance or people or things.
It is only in the awareness and recognition that it is OUR MIND that creates mental and emotional suffering...
that true freedom from such suffering can be accessed.
Whatever thoughts arise during times of "stress"...we still retain the power to
recognize our experience as just that: experience rising up within us at that moment.
It is neither good nor bad.
It is our mind that labels such experience as such (understandably so - we are after all human) but ironically therein lies our suffering.
Non of what we experience is really personal although it can look and feel personal.
Non of what we experience is truly serious although it can look and feel very very serious.
True freedom lies in seeing our experience as just that.
And knowing that when we resist, argue, lament and struggle with experience showing up…we can unwittingly prolong our suffering.