Many times we have conflict with people or ideas that make us suffer. Due to the fact that we don’t know how to properly respond to these conflicts, we suffer even more. We beat ourselves up because we don’t know what to do. When we take action to avoid suffering and we don’t get the results we want, we suffer more. The path to enlightenment is concerned, in part, with the discovery of how to respond to conflict and adversity in a conscious way. We become aware of the thoughts that produce suffering, and how to deal with those thoughts. When a thought arises that causes suffering, the proper response to the thought is to love the thought. We can’t stop suffering by hating the suffering. This negative response only causes more suffering.
The conscious way to deal with suffering is to contemplate the thought that is causing the suffering and to let go of it and all attachments to it. The thought might be that we are unworthy, unlovable, stupid or variations on those themes. The thought might be about how others are compared to us. The thought may be about how life is unfair or that God has abandoned us. We become attached to these thoughts and they become engrained in our subconscious. As long as they stay in our mind, we will suffer. When they surface into our conscious mind, we become enmeshed in the emotions that these thoughts cause and forget to deal with the thought itself.
Thoughts are not real, no matter how attached we become to them. We are not our thoughts. When we can detach from our thoughts, we can let go of the emotions they create and stop suffering. When a thought arises, we need to be able to look at it as simply a thought and nothing more. It is an illusion, a neuron flashing on and off in our brain. It helps me to compare a thought to a cloud in the sky floating across the blue sky. The blue sky is my true self, the observer, and blissful awareness. The clouds that separate the mind from the blue sky can be wispy or hurricane forces depending on the nature of the thought. In all cases the thought is not the sky. When I do not allow myself to become attached to the thought, eventually it will float away like a cloud.
Whenever I have a thought that causes suffering, such as judgments or critical thinking, I can either obsess on it or allow it to float away. When I obsess on it, it will stay in my consciousness for much longer periods of time, causing suffering like a radioactive isotope buried in my mind. There are ways to consciously remove these thoughts from my consciousness. One way to let go is to replace it with a pleasant thought, such as “cancel, I send love.” Every time a thought arises that causes me pain or suffering, I simply override it with “cancel, I send love.” This is a highly effective way to let go of thoughts.
I like to use another technique as well, the technique of placing the thought, and the object of the thought, into a fire of purple and pink flame. I call this the Prema Agni flame (Prema Agni means “fire of divine love”). I imagine that these flames burn and destroy the thought and what ever the thought was about. The flames are pleasant to the touch and do not hurt the thought or the object of the thought, simply removing them from my awareness and consciousness. I may have to do this repeatedly for a thought or an object that is particularly painful and is deeply engrained. However, eventually the thought will disappear and the suffering will be eliminated. For example, if we have to deal with an unpleasant person, or someone that is creating conflict, we can put that person in the fire of purple flame. Eventually that person will stop being unpleasant, we can resolve the issue or that person will disappear from our awareness. This technique is truly magical.
I recently had an unpleasant encounter with someone that caused me to doubt myself and dislike that person. I put that person and all of the thoughts I was having with that person into the fire of Prema Agni flame and watched it all go up in smoke as an offering to the universe. In a relatively short period of time I was able to stop thinking about that person, think positively about myself and get over it. I was amazed at how quickly this happened because I normally would obsess over this for days. Instead I processed these thoughts in a matter of minutes. Whatever suffering I was experiencing quickly stopped and I was able to return to a state of grace.
There are other ways to deal with unpleasant, painful thoughts, but these two are the most effective way of dealing with them. When we practice these techniques, they will start to engage as soon as a thought flashes into our consciousness. This automatically avoids melodrama and suffering and allows us to respond in love, not react in fear. When we can stay grounded in these teachings, our lives become less stressful, chaotic and painful. When we can focus on these teachings, we begin to experience the nature of enlightenment. Enjoy!