Three Things To Contemplate

The dharma talk for today is both simple and complex. Simple in the sense that everything comes together at the end, and complex in the fact that it contains three moving parts: (1) My Senior Teacher’s Favorite Yoga Sutra; (2) A common acronym for FEAR; and (3) my own acronym for HOPE.

Begging with item number one, we start with Yoga Sutra 2.16: Heyam Dukham Anagatam. This Sutra is often translated to mean “future suffering can be avoided.” Entwined with this direct message of hope are two important points. The first is this idea that everything we experience – whether pain or pleasure – is the result of some past action. While the second notion, which extends from the first point, states that our future experiences are determined by the present moment. So whether we have a life of joy or sorrow is completely dependent upon the choices that we make now. And the choices that we make in this moment, are in a large part, based upon the information, the evidence, that we have available. 

This brings us to the second point – i.e. a common acronym for FEAR. One of my favorite acronyms for fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. I like this analogy because it suggests that often times, the situations that scare us are situations in which we do not have accurate information to base our response on. Therefore, we go to the worst case scenario and in doing so, create a lot of suffering for ourselves. 

Here I think an example might be helpful in order to more clearly connect Yoga Sutra 2.16 and this notion of FEAR. 

To make a long story short: Lately I have been reconnecting with people from my past. Some of these people were once very near and dear to me. With life being what it is, we fell out of touch with one another. Yet in this process of attempting to reconnect, I noticed two things. On one hand, I was very excited to catch up. On another hand, I noticed that I was experiencing a lot of sadness, rage, worry, and anxiety about catching up. The thoughts that came up around the latter said something to the effect of, “If I tell this person how hurt I have been by their absence, they will leave again.” And yet, the idea of attempting to engage without expressing my truth also sparked thoughts like “What’s the point of engaging with this person if I can’t fully trust this person?”

In both instances, false evidence was appearing real to me. Specifically, I wasn’t clear on how I felt or how to best interact with this other person. Furthermore, this disconnect and fear of further separation were creating suffering. Suffering that, according to Yoga Sutra 2.16 could be avoided, if I were to employ a bit of HOPE. Or as I like to call it Help Overcoming Potential Excuses.

Looking at the situation above, to help overcome potential excuses, or rather the false evidence that was appearing real, I had to muster up the courage to take action in a way that would enable me to avoid future suffering.

Now here – either way, there was the potential to experience suffering. There was either the potential long-term suffering that may come from never speaking my truth and remaining in a relationship where I never fully felt seen, loved, valued, or cared for. Or the shorter term suffering that may come from speaking my truth and having the other person once again walk out of my life.

And of course, the question is, what is one to do? 

This is the question for the week: What future suffering might you avoid if you help yourself overcome potential excuses by examining the false evidence that appears real and taking action?

This question might be applicable within your personal life where there are some changes that must be made in order to live the life you want to live. This question might apply within your professional life where you might feel stuck due to a habit of giving credence to false evidence that appears real. Or maybe this question applies to your own health and wellbeing where with help overcoming potential excuses you might be better equipped to heal and live the life you wish to live.

Wherever this question applies for you, I encourage you to be kind and patient with yourself. Also, please note that to fully embody this question is going to require that you learn to let go of some attachment, expectation, or aspect of your being. While this may not sound encouraging, and down right frightening, I want to remind you that that concern may in fact be more of that false evidence that appears real. For all you know, helping overcome potential excuses that keep you from living the life of your dreams and avoid future suffering could be a blast. 

It’s all a mater of perspective.