We all suffer.
In fact, the nature of a human being is to suffer. We suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. We all suffer. This is one of the basic tenets of Buddhism.
Suffering comes in many forms. When we have pleasure or joy we attach to what we believe to be the cause of those feelings and then, of course, we suffer when they are no longer there.
The job title that provided a sense of worth, a beautiful home, a lover, that perfect vacation or even our own mortality. Those things in the outside world which bring us joy but ultimately are the source of our suffering, as nothing external is permanent. The wrinkles under the eyes serve as a gentle reminder.
On the flip side we have those things that we resist and struggle against: illness, challenges, change, pain. By the very act of resisting them, we suffer. Trying to hold back life with only the strength of our arms. Believing we have the power to select which of life’s events we want to pay us a visit us and which we can wave away.
Okay, so we all suffer. I hear the words. I read it. I reflect on it. But somehow I have a hard time believing it. I often think I am alone in the struggling department.
I look around and everyone else appears free from suffering. Everyone smiles and I hear daily stories of all of the good things occurring in their lives. I check Facebook and all of my “friends” are receiving hundreds of likes and being told how beautiful, smart and witty they are day after day. But I guess from the outside my life must look to others as free from suffering too. Maybe we are all skilled at hiding behind our mask? Creating the image of a perfect life while on the inside we suffer. Or is there something wrong with me?
When we begin a meditation practice and turn our gaze inward on a daily basis, it is the suffering that we notice first. The sadness, disappointment, longings and the anger at what isn’t fair. All there waving at us for attention, probably because we have kept them buried in the dark corners and wished them away for so long. Perhaps this is why many find meditation so difficult. Who wants to be confronted with pain when I can check email instead.
But as our practice progresses and we sit with our suffering and embrace it on a daily basis, it ever so slowly begins to soften. A gentle shift as we start to see that the suffering is not “me.” A pain, a sorrow, a love, a touch, a feeling. They are all there but they are not me. They are simply what they are. Each a wave passing through. Each impermanent. It is then we begin to get glimpses into our true underlying nature—joy. Maybe only for an instant, at first, before the next wave crashes in, but we now know it is there.
We suffer because we grasp. Peace is found when we let go. Nothing on the outside can make us suffer. We choose to. We can also choose not to.
At least for today.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” ~ Unknown
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Sarah Cahill
Editor: Travis May