“To Live Better means to come out of darkness, fear and pain to (re)create and (re)generate ourselves. “
DR SHARON GOLD
The concept behind Live Better Psychology popped into my thoughts during a Buddhist pilgrimage in India in 2012. I was sitting at the edge of a small river that wound its way through a village named Kushinigar that was steeped in the way of life from a thousand years before, and which to a westerner like me, was pretty hard to take. I had come to this remote place to see where the Buddha took his last bath before he lay down to die.
I was exhausted, covered in sweat and dirt from the dust in the air, and I felt hungry having been without food that my stomach could safely tolerate for more than a day. I contemplated my hunger, and the strong emotional response that I felt as I looked into the eyes of the people I walked past in the village and I reflected on the beauty that I had also seen in the people I had met along the way that somehow co-existed alongside their poverty and suffering.
My eyes came to dwell on small white petalled flowers in the distance and thoughts about lotuses entered my mind. I was reminded of the famous Buddhist monk Tich Naht Hanh’s book “No mud, no lotus” and I began to meditate on the life of a lotus.
I thought of the suffering that the lotus must experience as it struggled to grow upwards through the mud. I found myself contemplating the meaning of ‘powerlessness’ and it occurred to me that none of us are truly powerless (even though it may feel like we are!), not even those of us who to me had had to face the hardest of lives; I started to think about what it must be like to live the life that people like Stephen Hawking, Nick Vujicic, John Nash, and Frida Kahlo had to live for example, and I thought about the many adults and children I had seen in India enduring what to me was insurmountable suffering. What amazed me was that they still had this ability to spontaneously laugh and smile and play and be happy (in that moment at least!). I reflected on the idea from Acceptance and Commitment therapy that a full human experience involves suffering and that happiness is just as much a transient state as sadness, anger, shame, disgust, surprise and fear and then it occurred to me that if there is a desire to live better in the face of suffering, then we can find ways to adapt and and we can live a better existence even if it is just for moments in time. And viola! Right there and then, the seeds of Live Better Psychology were sewn in my mind, as a concept that represents coming out of darkness, fear and pain to (re)create and (re)generate ourselves.