“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”
—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—
the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim,
that you’re suffering in paradise.”
~ Byron Katie
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The most popular game in the world is the Blame Game, where you choose between three roles: victim, persecutor, and rescuer. But there’s another option.
That’s our necessary starting point for discussing how to choose freedom. As Byron Katie said in the above quote, “As long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering, the situation is hopeless.”
So, is your situation hopeless or hopeful? An honest answer to that question will immediately alert you to your degree of personal investment in the Blame Game. Read on if you’re interested in playing a different game.
Anyone who identifies as a victim – and they can usually prove why they truly are a victim – is living in an illusion of separation. That illusion generates this formulaic result: separation = conflict = suffering.
Let’s take them one at a time but first establish the inconvenient truth that to relieve suffering one must address this chronic problem of separation. Working on conflict resolution is not enough, if the source problem remains unaddressed.
Separation from what? We can start a list with separation from God. Ironically, one technique we’ve perfected for that is called religion. Religion separates us from God by inserting a priest, rabbi, or guru between “me and Him.” Apparently we need that middleman.
Of course, religions are separate from another as well. In fact, true believers routinely go to war with each other, each claiming that God is on their side. That’s separation!
Nature. What about our separation from nature? For many millions of people, nature is no more than a vague backdrop. Consider the successful business man who rides an elevator to underground parking, drives to work, takes an elevator up to his office, goes to a restaurant for lunch, has cocktails after work, drives to the theater or home… day after day separated from nature. Of course, he or she may jog… but that’s about fitness, not simply enjoying a connection with the natural world.
Separation means that conflict is inevitable. The “other” is a problem. Wherever we have built a conceptual wall between ourselves and other people, other beliefs, other customs and practices, etc., conflict will follow and turf wars are not primarily geographical. Sports fans routinely fight each other, based on allegiance to their teams.
There’s no simple remedy for a chronic malady like the disease of separation and the conflict it produces, but nature can sure help. “Forest bathing is the practice of taking a short, leisurely visit to a forest for health benefits. The practice originated in Japan where it is called shinrin-yoku.” 1
The Wikipedia entry goes on to state: “Studies in Japan have measured changes in immune markers and stress hormones in people who regularly walked in specific forests in Japan. In addition, people with diabetes but not taking insulin found substantial benefits by lowering blood glucose levels.”
Of course, nature provides more than physical health benefits. Being in nature, where everything is so obviously connected, can restore our sense of being included, of belonging. And that’s what so much suffering is about. Regardless of our exploding global population, loneliness has become epidemic and, as a recent New York Times article stated, “Researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. As a predictor of early death, loneliness eclipses obesity.” 2
Separation = conflict = suffering. Inevitably.
But there is another option. We can choose freedom. We can embrace what I call “the awakening moment.” When is that moment? Right now.
This awakening is not necessarily about content. That is, we don’t need to have some sort of remarkable epiphany to experience waking up. Think about your experience this morning. You probably just… woke up!
The spiritual corollary is similar. It just happens, and it’s not usually that dramatic. It’s also easy to describe. The choice for freedom, embracing the awakening moment, exiting the Blame Game, happens when we take responsibility for authoring our own experience. Victims don’t do that.
BTW, we are where we are. It’s easy to judge ourselves and others but this is it… this moment is either the moment to be a victim or the moment to be free, including all our judgments, concepts, etc. Nothing needs to change in this moment except our choice. Everything else follows.
Either we will suffer in paradise, as Byron Katie warned, or we can enjoy this moment. Some choice!
That’s true freedom.