Suffering on the Bus

What is is what’s happening before you have a thought about it. Suffering occurs when you believe in a thought that is at odds with what is, what was, or what may be.”


All suffering arises within the mind. There is no suffering outside of the mind. Within the mind, we find thought, imagination and memory which we use to create our suffering. When we attach to or fuse with mental constructs, we mistake them for what they represent.

If we are suffering, we are identifying with an idea of ourselves, not who or what we really are. At this moment, there exists a reality beyond our ideas about reality. The truth of our being is shining fully at this moment. We need not look elsewhere for our truth. We are not lacking. There is nothing “wrong” with us.

These are words you are reading, words that were developed over thousands of years to enable humans to comprehend and explain their experience to themselves and one another. Reality existed before words and language about reality. Look around you now. Observe carefully all you see. Now close your eyes and “see” what you saw. Picturing is something we do with our mind without words.

Seeing or picturing comes before thinking. We can “have” this immediate moment through our sensory experience. We can see, hear, feel, smell or taste this moment as it is, without thought or language. We will use our words to form a story about our experience but we don’t need language to “know” this moment.

Thought, words or language are the basic tools of the mind and can be used to help or hurt. We will not completely understand any of this with words alone. Words or language expressed through thinking, speaking or writing are limited vehicles for understanding why we suffer.

To “see” how our minds create suffering, we can step outside of thought and use our imagination. We use visualization to create or “bring to mind” a representation of reality. These language-based pictures are called metaphors. Abstract ideas or concepts can be concretized through verbal picture-painting. In this way, you can see in your mind what I see in mine.

If I say, “Don’t picture pink elephants,” your mind will immediately disobey. It cannot comply with this request because it will first seek to “picture” what it’s being asked to not picture. And in an effort to not see what it sees, it will continue to see it. However, if we are willing to let pink elephants exist in our mind, they will quickly fade from view as other thoughts and images arise. This is what is meant by, “That which we resist, persists.”

We have four choices in how we might respond if we find ourselves in the presence of a large bear as we walk along a path. We could attack, run away, or pretend she isn’t there. If the bear is a metaphor for our suffering, we can readily “see” how attacking, running away or ignoring will never work.

The fourth option is mindfulness. To “see” what we mean by mindfulness, we turn to the bus driver metaphor. The bus is our mind and the passengers are the contents of our mind: thoughts, feelings, memories, images, urges, or bodily sensations.

We have a choice. We can employ strategies in an attempt to get rid of, escape or “not have” them. These will never work. Using our language-based mind to attack, run away from or ignore what is mentally present will keep us stuck or fused. When we employ these strategies, that which we resist will not only persist; it will drive – and possibly crash – our bus.

However, when we welcome our painful memories, fears, anxiety, resentments, losses and regrets, we cease fighting with, running away from or seeking to “not have” them. All passengers are welcome on the mind-bus but they don’t get to drive.

Our self-as-awareness drives our bus, not who we think or imagine ourselves to be. At this moment, we are free to drive our bus in a valued direction with all our annoying and frightening passengers on board.

We are not our passengers. We have them but they are not us. We get to choose our relationship with our suffering. When we connect with the present moment, accepting and allowing reality to be what it is, not what our thoughts say it is, we are free to observe and notice without judgment or blame. We need not be at war with our inner experience, the passengers on our bus. Instead, we can warmly receive them with compassion, forgiveness, and grace. And let them peacefully ride along with us.

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad.”

Eckhart Tolle

Douglas Craig
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.
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