Optional Suffering. ~ Steve Mitten

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Mindfulness is the cure for the optional suffering in life.

It is a common expectation amongst those engaged in any form of mindfulness practice (e.g. meditation, contemplation, prayer, asanas, mantras) that with practice, they will achieve a permanent “zen like” state, and from that point on, experience nothing but bliss.

Forget about this idea. It is not true and there is precious little evidence that any saint, sage, messiah or yogi has ever achieved such an enduring state.

If you are breathing, you are human. Part of being human is experiencing pain—real, physical, emotional and spiritual pain.

However, a good mindfulness practice can make a huge difference in limiting the amount of optional suffering we needlessly add to the mandatory pain of life.

It is the nature of the human mind to want to resist and control change. Yet change is the one constant in life. Sometimes change brings pain. A good mindfulness practice can provide many opportunities and teachings to better accept and learn from the pain of life.

Mindfulness practices also provide many powerful tools to help you limit the amount of optional suffering the human mind tends to add to life’s painful moments. Put simply, do not expect the mind to stop resisting change.

Do not expect the mind to cease its compulsion to obsess over any perceived threat. That’s its thing. That’s what it does. Your power is found, and peace is restored, by remembering that you can always choose where to focus your attention.

When the pain of life comes, and the mind responds by going wild with excessive anticipation, planning, contingencies, judgements, resistance, and remorse, simply choose, over and over again, not to feed this suffering with attention, identity or belief.

Put your attention on your anything that is here now: your breath, body, prayer, asana or nature. And should you find your attention drifting back to the suffering, simply do not buy the inevitable thoughts: “I can’t do this” or “this doesn’t work for me.”

Rather, take your attention off that thought too, again and again. It all gets easier with practice.

It only took Steve Mitten a degree in engineering, 15 years in high tech, 5 start-ups and 2 IPOs, to find out he really didn’t care too much about any of that stuff. What he loved doing was helping other people find their truths and live more successful, meaningful and joyful lives.  Steve stumbled into professional coaching in its early days and over the past 17 years has helped over 1100 clients find their niche in life and thrive. He is an award-winning Master Certified Coach, a Past President of The International Coach Federation and Registered Yoga Teacher. As a lifelong student of the spiritual traditions and myth, he leans heavily on the powerful teachings within Advaita Vedanta for the cultivation of mindfulness and presence. Connect with Steve at www.acoach4u.com.


Editor: Alexandra Grace

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3 Responses to “Optional Suffering. ~ Steve Mitten”

  1. Buddha says:

    You want us to "forget about this idea" of "nothing but bliss" yet say in the previous sentence that "mindfulness is the cure for the optional suffering in life." I'm not sure what kind of help that gives someone – maybe to buy a coaching session? And then what? All you've done is confused the reader – hopefully to the point (for you) of needing some coaching.

  2. Pat Coldiron says:

    Good post Steve. It reminds us that we are all human, and everything is not always wine and roses. There are plenty of thorns on the way.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing the powerful idea that suffering is optional and -even though it cannot be avoided- that it is possible to reduce the potential for further suffering by being aware of it and connecting with the present moment. Thank you Steve!

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