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June 1, 2016

Going Deeper with The 15 Commitments: Ending Personal Suffering

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Here’s a wild idea: Suffering is optional. By suffering we mean internal drama, upset, runaway anxiety, experiencing lack, troubling thoughts and painful feelings. Through practice, and over time, we can end our personal suffering.

One form suffering can take is the emotional/cognitive interlock. We get stuck believing and recirculating a thought—e.g. “I don’t have enough time to get everything done”—and that thought brings up a feeling (fear, anxiety, nervousness). The thought activates the feeling and the feeling exacerbates the thought. This recycling can go on for a long time.

A practice we recommend to unwind the emotional/cognitive interlock involves using Commitment #3—Feel your feelings—and Commitment #10—See that the opposite of your story is true—in tandem.

The two-step practice looks like this:

(1) Feel the feeling all the way through to completion. Bring your attention to your body, release any fixation on thoughts. Ask yourself, “Where is the feeling in my body?” (stomach, chest, face, shoulders, etc). Give the sensations a few moments of non-judgmental attention. Don’t make up meaning about them or try to figure out why they are here. Just watch them. Allow them. Feel them. In most cases the sensations will release in a few moments; they almost never last longer than 90 seconds. The feeling might come again at another time. If so, simply return to this practice.

(2) Unwind the troubling thought. Once your body has released the current feeling, use Commitment #10 to unwind your troubling thought. It is important that the body be tended to first. If you don’t release the feeling from the body you will not really be available to investigate the thought.  

Investigate the thought is done by asking 4 questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I know for certain that it’s true?
  3. When I believe this thought how do I react?
  4. If I could never believe this thought again how would I be?

Then turn the thought around to see if the opposite of your thought could be as true as your thought. Look for real evidence to prove that the opposite is as true. Doing this work on your thought unwinds it. For more support on this process, go to thework.com.

As you expose the thought for being just a story about reality, and not what is actually real, it will no longer create the emotional response that it does when you believe your thought is true.  

Suffering ends when we let the body release all of its feelings, and when we see that the thoughts we have are not true. [Tweet] They’re just thoughts.

This practice works. Give it a try.

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