This year it has become clear to me why we are so easily distracted by the shiny stuff, even when the evidence tells us that consumption does not offer long-term contentment: We think this is all there is. We have no idea that there is an alternative. For so many of us there is only the physical plane. Anything which might exist beyond what we perceive with our immediate senses is too abstract for our rational minds to comprehend. We see only what is there, and we dismiss all notions of what might exist beyond that. Life, therefore, quickly becomes focused on the pursuit of earthly pleasures and the avoidance of any kind of pain.
We grow up conditioned by material achievement, funnelled towards a level of consumption we are persuaded is guaranteed to satisfy. The final twist – the one which completes the deception – is that we genuinely believe there is a way to avoid the pain of life. But there isn’t. Once you embrace the fact that suffering is a part of life, everything gets a little easier. The acceptance that you will experience pain – be it physical, emotional or mental – means that you can prepare for it. Not in a way which allows you to avoid it, but in a way which helps you deal with it. (Our attitude to death is the greatest example of this.)
Consumption is one way of dealing with the pain, but as countless people have testified, it doesn’t work. That’s because all we’re doing is turning away, distracting ourselves, when what we really need to do is face it. Face your pain and you will notice four things. Firstly, it is not insurmountable. It never is. Secondly, it doesn’t last forever. It never does. Thirdly, you are likely to learn more about yourself from your suffering than from your pleasure. Look inside for the answers, not outside, and you will grow. Fourthly, and most powerfully, when you face your pain you are more likely to take responsibility for it. Take responsibility and you automatically take more control of your life. Then you will realise that you are the creator of your reality. Not only that, you also have the choice of how you respond to what happens to you.
Finally, it is essential to know that as we proceed, we must remain vigilant. I read a piece recently about spiritual development and the powers which come your way as you grow. The advice was this: ‘Don’t use them, they are only further distractions.’ It brought home to me that there are distractions at every level. Shiny stuff as far as the eye can see. For that reason, it is just as important to keep an eye on how easily we succumb to our apparent nature, as it is to nurture – with daily practice – that aspect of ourselves which exists beyond the physical plane; where we shine more brightly than our rational minds could ever imagine.