Our precarious existence
Many aspects of our lives are uncontrollable and unpredictable. It is unavoidable that we meet adversity at some stage: in the form of pain, illness, loss, ageing and, ultimately, death. Everything to which we feel attached proves to be impermanent. Our body has many imperfections and will only show more defects as we grow older. We lose people and possessions that are dear to us. What the future will bring we can never surely know, however well we prepare ourselves.
Many complaints and health problems become worse because we do not accept the precariousness of our existence. We fight to control what is uncontrollable and flee from what we cannot escape. We worry ourselves sick to get hold of things that are elusive. The more we try, the more we suffer and the more we miss the joyful moments of our lives that pass by.
The stress reactions fight, flight and freeze can be life-saving when our physical existence is in acute danger. When these are the unconscious reactions to forms of stress which are not life-threatening at all, however, these reactions often unintentionally give us more stress. It is as if we give fuel to an internal stress-generator. This can happen already when we just imagine ourselves that we are in danger, whilst in reality we are not. We unnecessarily generate extra stress when we fight against or flee from unpleasant, but unavoidable, thoughts and emotions; when our perhaps once liberating thoughts freeze into unhelpful patterns that become our prison; when we are trapped in fruitless ruminations. If we feel threatened by what happens in our inner world, our body reacts in the same way as when the threat comes from outside.
Then it can make a big difference when we pause with a moment of mindfulness and that we observe that thoughts and feelings are transient phenomena in our minds. We may experience these as unpleasant, but they are not dangerous. When we notice this with kindness and compassion, we allow unnecessary stress reactions to calm down.
There is no coming to consciousness without pain.