Complaining as an Act of Suffering

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Image by Dmitriy Kolesnikov / Unsplash

When I began to practice Buddhism, the idea of dynamic acceptance was on every page of every book I read.

At first glance, I could understand acceptance on the surface level and I would go through the motions of verbalizing I “should” accept this moment in front of me. However, I would find myself perturbed by certain situations, people, traffic and even so much as being annoyed that my life was not in the place I wanted it to be.

I’ve written a few posts about contentment, happiness and gratitude and getting to incorporate all those things starts by living in dynamic acceptance in every moment. Check out Mark Van Buren’s podcast episode where he discusses dynamic acceptance here. 

The thing that kept tripping me up, was my incessant complaining and I couldn’t lean into dynamic acceptance. If you have read any of Eckhart Tolle’s books or Lama Surya Das, or anything with the Dalai Lama. Complaining is an act of suffering. We do it so much, we hardly recognize it. Complaining is the verbal or mental association with dissatisfaction of our lives. If we are dissatisfied with our lives, it is difficult to live in peace, harmony, contentment and joy.

One of my favorite quotes from “The Power of Now” by Eckhart is 

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

As I started to look at the things I was complaining about, in order to reign it in and get dive deeper into dynamic acceptance I found out most of my complaints were not legitimate. Which was a complaint in itself!

  • I complained about people not showing up to parties.
  • I complained about my hair not looking great.
  • I complained about not getting a raise.
  • I complained about my co-workers not working as hard as me.
  • I complained about the weather.
  • I complained about not being understood. 
  • I complained about not being able to travel as much.
  • The list was absolutely endless. 

I also found there were real and valid complaints that I held tight to. Like physical pain. When I was 27 I fell off a horse that was mid-run. I tore my SI joint and bruised my hip badly. I’ve been in chronic pain since then. My physical pain, I found out was also a window into dynamic acceptance. I could complain all day if I wanted to, or I could accept that my body was living with an injury and I could sit with my discomfort as a way to deepen my connection to my body. I could feel an immense amount of gratitude for how my body had healed itself, to the best of its ability and aside from that I am a healthy woman. (Please note, I am not saying to ignore your injuries or not seek medical attention. That is a must in order to keep you healthy the entirety of your life.)

My point is, that after watching my thoughts and really assessing why I was complaining so much and actively working to not complain. Things changed, quite drastically. My complaints were mostly negatively charged, as Eckhart says in his quote. That negativity was keeping me stuck and keeping me in a place that was not allowing me to grow into a kind and compassionate person. 

I started a “24 hour No Complaining Hold.” To help me change the way I interacted with my world. As complaints would arise in my mind, I wouldn’t let them formulate.

Try this for a day, and see how it goes. Be gentle with yourself. When you practice this exercise, it’s enough to be aware of the fact; that you are complaining at first (as some people cannot gain this awareness). Practice just watching your thoughts, then work on stopping them.  

We have the opportunity to infuse the world with my positivity by converting our thoughts into neutral and positive ones. Not complaining is a great way to start.

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