How Much Time Do We Practice Suffering?

Inner awareness practitioners often complain about not having enough time to practice — for example, sitting meditation, or yoga, etc. But aren’t we always practicing? All of us, including those who work hard for social change have an inner life — a set of behaviors, patterns, triggers, and beliefs that we operate from by default. We don’t get a choice about this. Regardless of how learned, experienced, or skilled we may be, what principally drives all human beings are their inner lives, for better or for worse. This explains why, for example, two people with similar skills, experiences, and life history can show up in such different ways. Both people may have experienced great loss and pain, for example, but one person views the world as their enemy and themselves as a permanent victim, while another person experiences life as an opportunity and challenge, while taking responsibility for their own happiness.

So what makes the difference? It’s not how much time we practice. Everyone is practicing at every moment. It’s how much time we practice suffering or practice freedom. Here’s why: We’re either practicing suffering — acting on and therefore reinforcing and solidifying our habits, patterns and beliefs — or we’re practicing freedom — cultivating awareness of our habit patterns, triggers, and beliefs and committing to shift our relationship to those patterns. We’re either reinforcing the pathways that keep us constantly finding ourselves in the same situations that we don’t like, hearing the same feedback from others around us, and feeling a nagging sense that our lives are not what they could be or we’re interrupting our behaviors and making different choices, finding more and more space to show up differently, feeling more present, open and ultimately free. So if we meditate, for example, once a week or three times a week, or even every day, but we spend the rest of our time practicing suffering, how much time are we really practicing?

Perhaps the real question is how much time do we spend practicing freedom? How much time do we spend practicing suffering?

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