Transitions and The Power of Choice

Martin Kupper

"Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helplessly by karma and neurotic thought
Like the relentless fury of pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara."

- Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche [1]

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Feeling Freedom of ChoicePhoto by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

In Buddhist philosophy, “samsara” is the unending journey that our souls travel from birth to death and to birth once again. At the heart of this seemingly never-ending cycle of rebirth lies the “relentless fury” of unavoidable adversity and suffering that encompass our lives through Karma.

It is in this relationship to fate that the intersections of past and present actions collide to form the symphony of our lives. It is only in the attainment of enlightenment that our journey through the adversity and suffering of samsara is complete.

While samsara originates in eastern thought and tradition, “transitions” is firmly rooted in the western culture of philosophy and modern living as a form of transformation or transcendence that unfolds as we evolve.

If we believe, as I do, that “everything” in Life is a choice, this will presuppose not just all the good things but the not so good as well that occur in our lives. Responsibility for our choices ultimately resides with each and every one of us, regardless of our upbringing, circumstances or lot in life.

In hindsight, the paths I have chosen to have manifested themselves through the adversity and subsequent suffering I have chosen and encountered through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

I should point out that the word “suffering” does not always imply the harshness the word sometimes conjures. In my case, suffering has been the long-accepted course of selling myself short or shutting myself off from others. The fear of being found out that somehow, I am just not good enough.

By keeping a calculated distance, I’ve been able to avoid getting too close or to provide anyone with a level of intimacy other than superficially. The payoff has been a form of unending suffering that stifles my full self-expression and the attainment of simple happiness, love and contentment.

My words and actions resonating rather emptily to a form of dis-ease bordering on the definition of “insanity” that was so aptly quoted at a 1981 Al-Anon meeting… as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.[2]

Modern psychology has produced remarkable advancements in the nature vs. nurture debate on how our beliefs, values, heredity, environment, personalities and idiosyncrasies evolve. Do you believe that we “chose” our parents and thus, our present body, so that our souls could incarnate into a particular environment to commence the formative learning cycle of this lifetime?

Consider for a moment that your life is actually a moving motion picture being played out on a rather large screen in front of you. You’re continually living into this feature called “your life” by consciously and unconsciously choosing the cast of characters, plot & sub-plot lines, antagonists, protagonists, adversaries, accomplishments, defeats and relationships, both personal and professional in each and every moment. Now imagine how the power of “choice” plays such a vital and imperative role in whether we continually suffer or choose joy and happiness.

As for my motion picture, I have mastered the art of explaining my life through “stories” that fully articulate and keenly rationalize these so-called adversities and sufferings that have not only been “real” but have caused significant unhappiness and remorse.

I emphasize the word ‘real’ having the intellectual understanding that it’s all just an illusion based upon the context I bring to any situation or encounter. The ease of my rationalizations had become so interwoven into my stories that the events themselves had been transformed into reality. My integrity and authenticity hovering precariously at the brink…

My first story begins just over 2 months prior to my scheduled arrival into this incarnation in the blistering heat and humidity of a classic Midwest summer. As you know, some of the best-orchestrated plans seem to have a mind of their own while dancing to the chagrin of their own folly. My mom was 20 and just barely out of the house where she grew up. My father was 26 and recently back from the Korean War and looking to find any job that would not have him working for his father. Marriage seemed like the perfect plan.

As fate would have it, an argument between my mother and father one weekend night just into their first year of marriage led to his storming out of the house and down to a local bar. After not returning home, my concerned mother set off to find him in the morning.

You can imagine her surprise and shock to not only find him, but to see him getting out of the car with one of the waitresses in front of the neighborhood bars. More ironic still, the name of the bar was The Inferno.

My mother was fraught with a combination of fear, anger and anguish that sent her to the hospital later that day. After a long and arduous labor, my mother brought all 4 lbs. 15 ounces of me kicking and screaming into the world at 2:32 am the next day.

The karmic destiny or samsara of this lifetime startled me into this world two months premature. I spent the next 3 weeks in an incubator fighting illness, putting on weight and allowing my immune system to develop.

I sometimes wonder what the world may have looked like for me and the alternative paths I may have encountered had I entered the world on August 6th versus June 6th. Too often, I have looked for enlightenment to end this life’s conflicts of samsara through the attainment of things… education, jobs, relationships, homes and material possessions.

Intellectually, I know full well that true happiness and contentment cannot be found in the pursuit of anything external of me. Why is it that in knowing that I still have felt that I would be the one anomaly to the rule and find salvation outside of myself? Again, the definition of insanity rings loud and true.

Although societal pressures are felt by both sexes, I for one, still wrestle with measuring myself by “what I do” professionally and not by “who” I am and how I show up in the world.

This rather simple play on words strikes to the very core of most men who continually walk the tightrope between measuring achievement against their fellow male friends by monetary gain versus a softer more philanthropic approach to personal achievement. My goal is not to make one right and the other wrong, but to continually strive to find a balance between the two and not have them at odds with one another.

The true “secret” does not reside in some recently discovered Law of the Universe, but in the awareness and understanding that in any given moment, I have the innate capability to shed samsara completely and live fully in the moment. That possibility lives not in some far away dream, but in the simple “choice” in each and every moment that shows up in my being and not in the doing. It is this way of being that single-handedly determines the quality of our lives and the motion picture we orchestrate and play into each and every day.

My “stories” are nothing more than the collapsed events that have actually taken place during this lifetime. It is “I” who gives the meaning to the stories I live into and thus to the perception of conflict and suffering that samsara has created for me. The key is the relationship to integrity and authenticity. Both provide a succinct roadmap to continually strive to uncover the best from within to make the difference I choose to make each and every day of my life.

Next time you see me, please do not shy away from telling me a good story about the samsara in your world… Just be sure that it’s followed by a wink, a smile and a knowingness that enlightenment is not in the story, but in the life that defines it.

[1] Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. Tibetan Meditation Master. https://tergar.org/about/tergar-lineage/nyoshul-khen-rinpoche/

[2] Al-Anon Meeting. November 1981.

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Martin is a certified business coach and Co-Founder of Surprise Date Challenge that provides individuals and couples with the tools to create and enhance connection, romance, love, and fun in their personal relationships.

Phoenix, AZ
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