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3 Ways You Are Making Life Harder Than What It Needs To Be

Written by: Doron Willis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


A few years ago during a very challenging time in my life, my soul yearned for a getaway and led me to partaking in a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I’m certain some of you are probably asking the question, “Why would anyone want to go off somewhere and not talk for 10 days? They must be insane.” Well…maybe. There are many reasons why someone would go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, but for the sake of time I’ll just give you one, clarity. My decision to jump headfirst into the deep end of self-improvement was based on my decision to embark on a new journey, which involved enrolling in grad school to become a psychotherapist. I needed to gain peace and clarity on whether or not this was the right path to take. The 10-day meditation retreat that I participated in is called Vipassana meditation, which focuses on simply observing your thoughts and emotions without judging or becoming attached to them.

However, for me to get this clarity, I had to make it through the restrictions and the following rigorous schedule:

  • 4:00 a.m. – Morning wake-up bell

  • 4:30 – 6:30 a.m. – Meditate

  • 6:30 – 8:00 a.m. – Breakfast

  • 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. – Group meditation

  • 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. – Meditate

  • 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. – Lunch (Last full meal of the day!)

  • 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Rest or meet with your teacher

  • 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. – Meditate

  • 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. – Group meditation

  • 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Meditate

  • 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Tea break

  • 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Group meditation

  • 7:00 – 8:15 p.m – Nightly discourse in the hall

  • 8:15 – 9:00 p.m. – Group meditation

  • 9:00 p.m. – Lights out

Other than no talking allowed, there were other restrictions that added to the intensity of this experience. Also not allowed were the following: no reading of any kind of literature except for the itinerary, non-verbal communication (hugs, handshakes, waving, or head nodding), exercising, writing, listening to music, and no self-loving (wink wink) despite this retreat being designed to help you get more intimate with yourself. I forgot to mention that upon arrival you are required to hand over your car keys and cellphone to lessen your temptation to keep running from yourself.

The first three days of my experience came and went with no problem. However, on that fourth day is when I begin to realize the different ways I was making life difficult for myself. Today, I am going to share with you the ways that you too, might be making life a lot harder than what it needs to be.

1. Refusing To Let Go And Detach

The thought of not being able to work out or have my phone for 10-days was initially terrifying. Also, the week that I arrived at the retreat just so happened to be the first week of the NFL football season, and boy do I love football! I played the game since I was 8 years old up into college. Plus, how was I going to keep my sanity of not being able to keep track of my fantasy football team? The only question that ran through my head was, “What have I gotten myself into?” I quickly learned just how attached and dependent I was on these things for my happiness.

However, it was not until after the third day that I realized just how much I did not need the majority of the things that I believed I had to have to maintain my life. It was once said that excessive attachment to anything in life will lead you to become mentally enslaved. And I believe this to be true, especially when things, people, or situations are not feeding our souls or leading us toward a life of purpose. As the days passed by, my attachment to my phone, football, and working out begin to weaken and I found peace with what was. If you find yourself being overly attached to things, people, or situations that are preventing you from establishing inner peace, I encourage you to detach because according to the Indian mystic Osho, misery is nothing but the shadow of attachment. To learn more about how to let go, check out the book by David Hawkins titled, “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender.”

2. Avoiding Pain (Emotional Pain That Is)

I remember on the fourth day of the retreat during one of our meditation sessions, we had to sit for two hours straight. A big jump from the one-hour meditation sessions that we did for the first three days. We were instructed to simply observe the sensations on our body and not identify, judge, or develop an aversion to them, even if the feeling was a little painful. About fifteen minutes in, I begin to shift my body to a more comfortable position because of the discomfort I was experiencing. I must have shifted my body position about three hundred times before realizing that my aversion to the discomfort was only making matters worse.

Unfortunately, there are some of you now trying everything possible to avoid having to face or sit with your pain. To be more specific, I am speaking about emotional pain. During that two-hour meditation session, I learned that what we resist will continue to persist until we learn the lesson in the experience. And that the only way out of our emotional pain is to go through it.

As a licensed psychotherapist, I assist my clients with understanding the importance of detaching from identifying with their emotional wounds along with the benefits of releasing any aversions to their pain.

The more you keep prolonging and avoiding the healing of your emotional wounds, the more life will continue to put you in situations that trigger your emotional pain until you work through it. Neil Strauss once stated that so many people are willing to go through so much pain just to avoid pain. And as I learned on that challenging day, if you stop resisting and allow your pain to move through you and teach you, the sooner you will understand and experience true freedom.

3. Trying To Force Life To Be On Your Terms

We live in a world where we are constantly told that in order to live your wildest dreams you cannot afford to take days off. Typically, when this happens, you become exhausted, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and angry when things do not manifest how and when you want them to. Being at that retreat taught me to be open and accept the organic unfolding of life because every experience of our life’s journey comes to teach us something no matter how unpleasant it may be. Once I bought into the whole experience of not talking for 10-days, not having certain belongings, and not being able to engage in certain activities, my mind became a lot clearer and calmer. As I previously mentioned, the reason I decided to do this retreat was to gain clarity on the next steps of my journey. Although I was learning to let go and face my emotional pain, I was still frustrated over not knowing whether or not I was about to take the right course of action for my future.

Around day number eight, I was finally able to learn how to just be. In rediscovering my existence as a human being and not as a human doer, the answer that I was seeking finally came…effortlessly. I learned that my impatience and the need to force life to give me the answers was the root cause of all my distress. Remember, life operates in Kairos, not Chronos. Meaning, no matter how much you grind, life will reward you at the right time. Life rarely operates in chronological order. When the time is right then life will give you what you have been waiting for. Just be prepared to receive it.

In conclusion, despite not being able to speak for 10-days and having to sit daily on a mat with my eyes closed in order to connect to my innermost thoughts and feelings, I was able to see just how much I was making life more difficult than it needed to be. S.N. Goenka the teacher of Vipassana meditation emphasized that if you want to experience true happiness, then you must let go of antiquated conditioning of the mind, be willing to embrace every experience of life, and allow life to unfold in its own unique way and timing. With that being said, just flow with the river of life and not against it. The river of life knows the way to get you to your desires. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride, and trust the process.

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Doron Willis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Doron Willis, LMFT, MA. Doron is a Mental and Sports Psychotherapist helping individuals with a competitive spirit uncover and breakthrough their mental blocks in order to foster resiliency and perform at an optimal level in life consistently. Doron is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California, a former Division I collegiate athlete, and a certified fitness and sports performance trainer, so he knows all about the importance of cultivating a strong and sound mind. Doron specializes in life transitions, resiliency, sports performance, men's issues, and helping individuals find meaning and purpose for their life. Doron earned his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in marriage & family therapy from Phillips Graduate University, and his Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences from Arizona State University. Additionally, he is trained in EMDR therapy from the EMDR Institute and holds a certificate in Sports & Exercise Psychology from California State University Dominguez Hills, and a certification as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Doron is also the author of "The IT Factors For Athletic Dominance: Identifying the traits of elite athletes.



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