Letting Go of Suffering- Week Fifteen: Changing Your Suffering Profile


Suffering patterns often become rigid. Simply thinking about a topic that has brought you pain in the past, might trigger you into suffery behavior. One technique that may be helpful in breaking those patterns is to change your suffering profile.

In Week 2 of this series, each participant identified their personal suffering profile.  They did that by examining the following areas:

  • The time of day I usually suffer (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening).
  • Where I usually suffer (e.g. home, work, bedroom, basement).
  • The people with whom I usually suffer (e.g. husband, friend, employer).
  • The day of the week I usually suffer (e.g. Saturday, Monday).
  • The messages I usually give myself when I suffer (e.g. Nobody loves me, I can’t do anything right).
  • Where in my body I usually feel my suffering (e.g. head, stomach, chest).
  • Time of year I usually suffer (e.g. holidays, birthday).
  • What I usually suffer about (e.g. my children, my family, work).

If you completed that original assignment, go back and look at your answers. If you did not write down you responses, or if this is the first time you have learned about a suffering profile, then create it now. You can either use the list above, or go back to the original assignment and use the diagram.

Once you have identified, or reviewed, your suffering profile, you are ready to start this week’s assignment.

Each day this week, whenever you are tempted to suffer, go ahead and suffer! But this time, be sure you are suffering in different ways than those you identified in your profile. For example, if your profile is to suffer about work, at home, during the evening, with your husband, an alternative could be to choose to suffer about your yard, with a supportive friend, during the day, on a walk.

If nothing is bothering you, then intentionally find something to suffer about, so that you have multiple experiences of changing your profile.

Take a few minutes each day to journal about your experience.

Day 1


Day 2


Day 3


Day 4


Day 5


Day 6


Day 7


See you next Monday for the sixteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay


Letting Go of Suffering- Week Twelve: Using Contracts to Heal


A contract is usually an agreement between two or more people but you can also use contracts to make agreements with yourself. It is a structure that can be invaluable when you are serious about making changes in your life.

Here are some examples of this type of contract:

Example #1

Problem: I work 65 hours a week

Contract: I will work no more than 50 hours a week for the next month and will reduce my work time to 45 hours a week after that.


Example #2

Problem: I constantly criticize myself.

Contract: Every time I am self-critical, I will internally say the affirmation “I am worthy of respect. I will not harm myself by thought, word or deed.”


Example #3

Problem: I eat when I am not hungry.

Contract: For the next week, I will record every time I am tempted to eat when I’m not hungry. Next to the date and time, I will write what incident or thought triggered my desire to eat, as well as the emotion that followed the trigger.


Example #4

Problem: When someone asks me to do something, I automatically say yes, even when it is something I don’t want to do.

Contract: I will not say yes to requests without taking time to think about the request first.


In the next section, you will make a list of your self-sabotaging behaviors, such as those in the examples above. After you make your list, you will formulate a contract for each one. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to commit to keeping a lot of contracts. The purpose of the first exercise is to help you learn how to write simple, clear contracts.

It is important that you word your contracts in a way that promotes you in being successful. For example, if you would like to exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes, it would be best to start with a contract that says “I will exercise a minimum of 3 days a week for 20 minutes.” That way you won’t break the contract if you only do 3 or 4 sessions on a busy week. You can always do more than your contract requires.

Exercise #1

In the box below, list 4-8 behaviors you desire to change and write a contract for each one. If you have trouble identifying the changes you want to make, you might find it helpful to look through the Week 1 and Week 2 lessons of this course. If possible, complete Exercise #1 on the first day of this week so that you have the rest of the week to work on Exercise #2.


Exercise #2

Pick two of the contracts from the list above, and commit to keeping them for the rest of the week. At the end of each day, jot down some notes about your experience.



At the end of the week, answer the questions below:

Was it easy for you to keep the two contracts?

If it wasn’t easy, then commit to continue keeping them. It takes time to change behavior patterns.

When you are ready to add one or two new contracts to the original two, write them in the box below.


If you would like feedback about the contracts you write, feel free to put them in the comment section. I would be happy to answer questions or make suggestions.

Pen Photo Credit: Pixabay


See you next Monday for the thirteenth lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published click here.

Exposing the “Know-It-All”



For several years in the late 1990’s  and early 2000’s, I wrote articles about my experiences with Amma for “The New Times,” a free newspaper that was, at that time, available in Washington and Oregon. I have started sharing some of those articles on my blog. The article below was published in March of 2000.


One of my major enjoyments in life is to watch and experience the ways in which Life/God/Spirit/Guru reveals the lessons I need to learn. I see each lesson as a potential adventure, an opportunity to participate in one detective mystery after another.

Many lessons become evident when a situation results in exposure of a self-defeating behavior. Once unmasked, we have the opportunity to examine the behavior and then look for new ways to act, ways that will be more nourishing to ourselves and others.

While I know that I will have lessons to learn throughout my entire life, I find that when I am in the presence of my guru, Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), the lessons are considerably less subtle and seem to come at a faster rate. Luckily, when I am with her, I am usually able to work through the lessons faster.

Earlier this year, while visiting Amma’s ashram in South India, I experienced a series of events that made the theme of a new lesson quite obvious. I was so fascinated by witnessing this process unfold that I decided to write about it.

The new series began when I informed my daughter that Kollam, a city north of the ashram, would be a good place for her to buy new glasses. When others told her the Kollam shop produced poor quality glasses, I insisted they were wrong.  I KNEW that the shop’s glasses were of EXCEPTIONAL quality. After experiencing some of the events that followed, I reflected on this incident once again. I realized that my strong pronouncement had been based on a sample of one, i.e. I knew of ONE person who had purchased glasses in Kollam and SHE had been very satisfied. I could see that I had no basis for having drawn such a strong conclusion.

Next, while waiting for Amma to arrive at the temple for the nightly music program, a woman sitting beside me remarked that it was too bad that the number of Indian visitors coming to the ashram had decreased. I was shocked because there had actually been a HUGE increase in the number of Indians coming to see Amma. In fact,  now there were frequently more visitors than the temple could hold.

I said, “You mean during the last day or two, now that the holidays are over?”  “No,” she said, “I mean all of the time.” She went on to say, “In fact, fewer people are attending the programs she leads throughout India.” As I readied myself to tell her how thoroughly wrong she was, Amma arrived, ending the possibility of further discussion. I agitated throughout the evening program, filled with the desire to correct her misinformation.

I hoped I would see her later, but I never had the opportunity to rectify the situation. I remained agitated for some time, uncomfortable that someone was passing on such mistaken information.

The next day, I observed an interaction between a young Indian girl and a Western man. He said “Om Namah Shivaya” as she approached. This is a mantra that is frequently used as a greeting at the ashram. “What does that mean?” the girl asked. He responded in a shocked and rather demeaning manner, “You don’t know what that means? It is a greeting used all over Kerala (the state in which the ashram is located). Where are you from?”  “Kerala,” she replied. He shook his head, unable to believe that she did not know something so fundamental.

I, without invitation,  inserted myself into their conversation, informing him that “Om Namah Shivaya” was NOT the primary form of greeting used in Kerala. While some Hindus may use it, it was not even that common.   “Namaste” or “Namaskar” was a much more common greeting. He insisted that I was wrong, restating that “Om Namah Shivaya” was the proper greeting. He walked away, totally ignoring the girl’s request for a definition of the phrase.

That same day, I told my daughter the story of a brahmacharini  (female monk) who at one point had chosen to abstain from Amma’s darshan (time when Amma hugs each person who comes to her) for two years. Later in the day, I told the brahmacharini I had shared her story. She informed me that the period of time had actually been six months, not two years. I was shocked. I was SURE it had been two years. Again I saw my urge to be right, but I could not ignore the fact that her recall of the subject matter was more likely to be correct than mine.

As I reflected on these four incidents, I saw how they exposed my tendency to insist that something is fact when I don’t have enough information to warrant that certainty. The woman in the temple and the man who had been talking to the Indian girl had mirrored that behavior. In all four instances I could see my strong desire to “be right” as well as my ongoing urge to “set people straight.”

This know-it-all attitude can be considered a personality trait. Luckily, all personality-based behaviors can be placed on a continuum, having both healthy and unhealthy elements. At the healthy end of the continuum, this trait allows an individual to be efficient, responsible, insightful, helpful, and productive. At the unhealthy end of the continuum, however, the individual becomes arrogant, judgmental, suspicious, pushy, and obsessive.

I appreciated having been presented such a clear picture of ways I sometimes operate from the unhealthy end. In the days and weeks that followed I was repeatedly given opportunities to choose to indulge in those behaviors or to “do it different.”

Since I have returned to the U.S., the same lesson has come again and again, growing in magnitude each time. Even now, while still feeling the pain from the most recent incident, I can see my mind working in ways that makes it obvious I have not fully learned what I need to learn. While I regret the pain I cause myself and others, I am grateful that Life/God/Spirit/Guru is committed to revealing the work I need to do as I continue on my journey Home.

(Above article written in March 2000)


“The New Times” articles that I’ve already shared:

Support in Times of Trouble

A Multitude of Lessons


Photo Credit for the Know It All: Clip Art Panda

“I will be responsible and accountable for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.”

Photo Credit: Fritz Reitz

When a friend showed me a picture of this rock, I thought of a one of the self care contracts* that I use in my personal life and with my psychotherapy clients.  That contract is “I am responsible and accountable for my thoughts, feelings, actions and attitudes.”

It is not uncommon to hear people in our society make comments such as, “You hurt my feelings.” and “You made me do that.”  You…..you….you….you.  When we get into the “you’s” we are more than likely not being responsible and accountable for our own feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.  Using that way of speaking increases the chances we will immerse ourselves in victim thinking and as a result experience a sense of powerlessness.

I’m not saying that people who are nasty and viscous in their words and actions should not be responsible for what they say and do.  Continue reading ““I will be responsible and accountable for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.””