If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you know that I’m really drawn to the way Dr. Joe Loizzo teaches. He’s the founder of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science and the author of Sustainable Happiness. So when I saw he was giving a lecture at Tibet House, I was excited to attend. Then I read the title of the lecture: “How We Can Avoid the Earth’s Civilization Cliff: The Global Renaissance of India’s Contemplative Arts and Sciences.” Hmm. That sounded a bit intimidating, but I decided to go anyway. And I’m so glad I did! Joe is such an inspired speaker.
The talk really sparked my interest. He touched on all sorts of topics, from ideas about how modern/traditional and Eastern/Western cultures were becoming integrated—from yoga studios on almost every corner and meditation centers popping up like mushrooms—to the reasons why modernization can be a good thing. One point Joe made that evening really struck me. He talked about how the Buddha had said, “We are the cause of our own suffering.” Wow. Think about that. We are the cause of our own suffering. What a simple yet complicated truth. It brought me back to a time several years ago when a friend of mine asked to make a date for coffee because there was something she wanted to talk to me about. She wouldn’t tell me why she needed to see me and, due to our schedules, we had to wait two weeks before we could get together.
We spend so much our lives inflicting unnecessary suffering on ourselves. Our mind/body is designed to automatically go into survival mode when it senses an attack. But our thoughts can get so convoluted that we can no longer decipher an attack from a normal inquiry. We’re programmed to hold on to the threat longer than we are intended to, therefore creating our own suffering.
I wondered what she wanted to discuss. Could I have offended her? I began obsessing about what it could be! Maybe my daughter had done something to hers? If that were the case, I couldn’t imagine that she would wait two weeks to tell me, so it must have been something I had said or done. As time passed, all I thought about was what I might have done wrong. I played back every encounter we’d had over the past month to the point where I became so distraught with the idea of what I might have done that I was driving myself a little crazy. Rehearsing explanations for my phantom behavior was causing me such great distress that I finally called a mutual friend to see if I could find out what I had done. My friend assured me it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t believe her.
When the coffee date finally arrived, my friend seemed nervous. She had a hard time getting words out and apologized, saying this was very hard for her. She eventually blurted: “I’m getting a divorce.”
What? This was my Rewire Me moment—I shifted from self-doubt to sympathy. I’d been stuck in my self-absorbed mind, certain that what she had to tell me was about me, when it had nothing to do with me at all.
I began to realize that I do this all the time. We spend so much of our lives inflicting unnecessary suffering on ourselves. Our mind/body is designed to automatically go into survival mode when it senses an attack. But our thoughts can get so convoluted that we can no longer decipher an attack from a normal inquiry. We’re programmed to hold on to the threat longer than we are intended to, therefore creating our own suffering.
Did you know that when a grazing gazelle senses fear, it stops and freezes for fifteen minutes? When the sense of danger passes, it continues to graze. Human beings are meant to behave the same way—but we don’t. That’s why I created Rewire Me—to help others (and myself) change our thought patterns from suffering to not suffering.
Rose, you have articulated one of the most powerful, useful concepts of daily living. We all do it all the time and life gets so chaotic and stressful, that our instinct to “pause” is muted. Thank you for reminding us that although we all are part of our larger world, it is but one part with one view with one reference with one belief. Others exist.
And together we can make change happen!
Thank you Gwen.
I’ve loved reading your conversations with Dr. Loizzo and have learned so much. Thank you!
Love your site!! You are an inspiration for me!! Thank you.
Thank you for an important message, which certainly should resonate with so many of us. It is important not to blame ourselves without the knowledge to understand what is happening. I “time lock” the situation and block obsessing until the moment arrives. This tactic usually helps.