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Saturday, 15 November 2014

THE MEASUREMENT OF SUFFERING

When I started this blog I had been sitting at Port Elizabeth airport since 4pm.  It was then 9.30pm, about an hour and a half after we were supposed to have taken off for Durban, and there was still a while to wait.  The first sign of a problem was when my boarding pass had printed out with a boarding time on it that coincided with the time I knew I was supposed to land.  Of course, my goal directed (and reactive) mind immediately assumed this was just a silly computer error, completely denying (or at least not considering) that there might be another possibility, like a plane which had broken down earlier in the day and backed up all flights by a couple of hours.

When the sorry truth was revealed to me by the lady in the SAA lounge, I immediately felt angry.  It was Friday evening, for heaven's sake!  We should have been warned.  SAA should have put on an extra flight.  I have to waste a precious weekend evening in an airport.  I'm only going to be home after midnight.  This shouldn't be happening.  I have to get on another flight via Johannesburg. And so on, and so on.  My disquiet had me feeling grumpy and disconnected.

This is a form of suffering.  Whenever we get into an expectation, or place a demand that something should be a certain way, when it turns out differently our minds can get reactive and we suffer the consequences of disappointment, anger, regret, resentment and so on.

Business consultants tell us that what we cannot measure, we cannot manage.  So, in order to manage our suffering, we have to be able to measure it.  The equation for measuring suffering is quite simple: S = E - L, where S is the amount of suffering we experience, E is the level of our expectation of how things should be and L is Life exactly as it is.  In other words, the further away our internal expectation or demand is from the reality of how things truly are, the more we will suffer.

So now that we know how to measure it, we also know how to manage our suffering.  All we need to do is align our demands with Life as it is.  The easiest way to do that is simply to let go the demand that anything or any situation should be different from what it is.  The moment we can learn to accept things just as they are, our suffering ends. QED.

Someone once said or wrote (I don't remember right now) that pain is inevitable, but the suffering is optional.  We can choose to suffer, or choose acceptance, but the beauty is that we truly can choose how we want to be.

A friend and colleague who was on the same flight and also stuck in Port Elizabeth, Malcolm Hartwell, summed it up pretty well after a further delay was announced: We can rail as much as we like, but it won't change a thing.  So I stopped railing, cheered up and got home at midnight. 

1 comment:

  1. Expectations are the sole source of your disappointment, but they are also the sole source, of your drive.

    ReplyDelete

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