Lesson

Image by Michael de Groot

hilst driving my car I often listen to a podcast or a book on audible. This particular day, I was driving to the railway station to catch a train into our nearest big city, Birmingham UK, I had some meetings planned with business owners and a networking event in the evening.

“It’s because of human suffering”, says the book’s narrator. All audible books are narrated of course and this particular book was being narrated by an english speaking voice, the voice of Kris Dyer. He was obviously chosen by the authors, who are the famous Dalai Lama and the not so famous Howard C. Cutler. In the summary of this book it says and I quote, “In this unique and important book, one of the world’s great spiritual leaders offer his practical wisdom and advice on how we can overcome everyday human problems and achieve lasting happiness.”

I was drawn to this audible book, because of my interest in the topic of happiness, but also because of my interest in learning more about the Dalai Lama’s insights. As I was listening to that phrase, “it’s because of human suffering”, something flooded into my brain and I couldn’t quite understand why at first. Anyway, I carried on driving, obviously paying attention to the road, the traffic, the mad drivers and even crazier pedestrians jumping out in front of me, wow, sometimes I think I’m the only one who knows how to drive respectfully, but that’s just my ego talking of course! My mind drifted and the voice of the narrator went more distant at every turn on the road and there it came again, fear and doubt.

Those two short words, kept repeating over and over in my head, fear and doubt, fear and doubt, like a heartbeat in my head, boom boom, boom boom, fear and doubt, boom boom, fear and doubt, fear and doubt.

Why I thought, well you would, wouldn’t you? Why am I getting these two words, repeating like a heartbeat in my head? Oh well I thought, it’s just nonsense isn’t it, stop thinking I thought, pay attention to the road. By now I had arrived at the railway station, so I had to unplug my phone and therefore the audible book had to stop and right at that very moment, I heard it again, the narrator said, “suffering” and I unplugged the phone. Whilst walking from the car to the station’s platform, I decided to locate my ear pods, I still have those wired ones that get all twisted up in your bag or pocket. Mine were in my man bag, a cross between and briefcase and a shoulder bag, a leather man bag, that can just fit in my iPad, some pens a notebook, wallet, phone and of course those twisted ear pods. I quickly tried to untangle the wires, easier said then done of course and eventually managed to plug them into my phone and then my ears. I jumped to the audible app and pressed play, so I could continue to listen to this bit where they were discussing suffering. Did I mention that the book is actually an interview between Cutler and the Lama? Well it is and so the interview continued and as I started to listen, those two words started repeating in my mind again, boom boom, fear and doubt.

It was only after a further 5 minutes of listening to the book, it came to me, are you ready?

All suffering originates because of “fear and doubt”. That’s it there you have it. That’s my insight!

Whenever I witness suffering, whether in myself, my family or total strangers, I can detect that their suffering originates from “fear and doubt”.

It occurred to me some days or maybe weeks later that maybe this is the formula for happiness? You know like a mathematical formula.

Happiness ≠ Fear and Doubt = Suffering.

Or maybe it should be the other way around?

Suffering = Fear and Doubt ≠ Happiness.

You decide which one works best for you.

Months later, when my wife and I were in Bristol UK, for an Anita Moorjani (Hayhouse author) workshop, we went out to dinner and talked about the many things we learnt during the day, mainly from observing some of the audience and their questions to Anita. Oh, I should mention that I met Anita in Hong Kong, where she lived before she was famous, a few days after she came out of hospital. She did her first ever talk, with maybe 50 people in the theatre. When I say she did her first talk, she didn’t actually say that much, it was a Chinese doctor who had managed to get her medical records from the hospital to present to the attending audience, the evidence from her records confirming that she shouldn’t really be alive. This was in 2005. I met her in person then and she showed us the scars around her neck, where she had tumours the size of tennis balls before her NDE (near-death experience) and recovery. You will have to read her book of course.

I digress, over dinner reflecting on the comments, questions and sometimes desperation for answers from Anita, I had observed very clearly that those audience members were in suffering and that suffering was originating from their fears and doubts. I must add that you can clearly hear the fear and doubt in people’s voices, the way they speak, they way they ask questions or the way they like to be heard.

So what is the opposite of fear and doubt and how do you overcome those thoughts and feelings? It didn’t take us very long over dinner to conclude it. We brainstormed for a few minutes, said things like having to be brave, feel the fear, breath, look at the positives, reduce the negatives, gratitude, you name it, we came up with loads until we finally concluded on “Courage and Clarity”. I came up with the word Courage and my wife, whose name happens to be Clair, with an ‘i’ and without an ‘e’, came up with the word Clarity.

So there you have it, we solved the formula of happiness.

Happiness = Courage and Clarity ≠ Suffering ≠ Fear and Doubt.

How to put it into practice? Well, that will be my next lesson of course!

By Michael de Groot in response to an assignment by the Hayhouse Writing Challenge course to come up with a 3-part post as outlined below. I’m not sure I achieved number 3 as yet, but I promise I will make that my next article!

  1. Relate a story from your own life. ☑️
  2. Describe the insight you gained from that experience. ☑️
  3. Offer the reader guidance for how they, too, might put that insight to use.

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Michael de Groot

Podcast Host (Share Your Story), Creator, Certified IPTPA Pickleball Instructor, Taiko Drummer | www.stayingaliveuk.com