February 24, 2020

Face your ugly Pain & Suffering Head-On—the Buddhist Way.

Ah, pain—the inevitable discomfort that comes with human life.

We all go through it, and we all have our own ways to cope with it. 

Maybe you do drugs, maybe you watch porn, maybe you have sex with random people you meet off the internet, maybe you seek validation from social media, maybe you distract yourself by going to work, maybe you smoke cigarettes, or maybe you distract yourself with television and movies. Maybe you do all of the above. 

These coping mechanisms are merely a means to an end. 

You watch porn, ejaculate, and now what? The pain is back.

You do drugs, get high, and now you’re sober. The pain is back.

You watch a movie and eat ice cream, get distracted for a bit, and now what? The pain is back. 

In fact, it never left. All you did was take your attention off of it.

Obviously, none of these coping mechanisms work. They just temporarily distract your attention so you don’t feel it, and once your attention is back on the present moment, you hurt

Coping doesn’t resolve the pain; it merely distracts you from it. 

The first step to healing your pain is to stop coping with it and start being with it. 

Pain hurts, but it needs to be acknowledged. 

The more you run away, the further you get from acknowledging the problem. 

This is the Buddha’s first noble truth: acknowledging your suffering. 

How can you heal a problem that you haven’t identified?

In alcoholics anonymous, the first thing you do is admit to yourself and the group, “I am an alcoholic.” Acknowledging that there is a problem naturally prompts you to find a solution. If you don’t see a problem (like most alcoholics are too drunk to see one), you won’t solve it. 

Similarly, the Buddha taught that through acknowledging one’s suffering, they open the door to alleviating it.

Many Buddhist students throughout the years have studied this truth in depth, and have gone to the extent to say that everything is suffering.

This world is not heaven; it is hell. There are lessons to be learned and sorrows to be suffered. This place isn’t supposed to be perfect.

It isn’t until we can learn how to be with the inevitable phenomenon of pain that we can find freedom from it. Doing this takes great strength and openness. If we fear pain so much that we run away, we aren’t strong enough to overcome it. 

When we find the strength to simply be still with the burdens we are facing, we get to know ourselves and our pain deeply and can take the steps to alleviate it therefrom.

So the real mission with the first noble truth is not only to acknowledge in which ways you are suffering, but finding comfort within that pain. Not fearing it, but being still with it. 

Embracing it, if you will. 

Embracing pain takes a great deal of responsibility, and darkness

People say they are dark if they do drugs, have a lot of sex, and sell dope—but these people are actually just running away from darkness. They are actually trying to find some kind of light because they can’t handle it, so they perform actions which distract them from the pain they are facing. 

You are dark if you are able to be in pain and marinate in it. You embrace it. No drugs, no sex, no distractions, no filters—just being in the raw, difficult burden of pain. 

Understanding the first noble truth is accepting the inevitability of pain and becoming comfortable with it. Because you know it is inescapable, you may as well befriend it. It’s going to happen anyway, so why fight it?

The majority of the time, when people are dying, they are not struggling to stay alive. They know their time has come, so they surrender. There is nothing they can do about it, so they sit and get ready for whatever journey death takes them on. 

Similarly, when we are feeling pain in this life, we should not struggle to escape it. We know the pain is inevitable, so we should surrender. There is nothing we can do about it, so let’s sit and get ready for whatever journey this pain takes us on. 

The pain will only reveal us to ourselves, and although it can be an unpleasant journey, it is necessary. Without feeling pain, we won’t ever heal the knots we have tied and buried deep within.

Get to know yourself, for whatever is causing you pain has a reason. Whether it is anxiety, fear, sadness, despair, stress, or grief—anything you are feeling has its underlying cause. 

When you sit with how you are feeling and be fully present with it, you can get to know the feeling and dissect the reason you are feeling it. 

After the Buddha’s first noble truth of acknowledging suffering, he taught the second noble truth of understanding the root of our suffering. Acknowledging the suffering was a prerequisite to understanding where it comes from. Without becoming comfortable within our pain and learning to sit with it, we can’t learn about it.

We owe ourselves the favor of understanding ourselves, and it starts with being strong enough to be with ourselves.

We are suffering so much every day, and we never take the time to get to know ourselves. Once we do, we are able to take the steps to go on the healing journey we need. 

Many of us want sunshine with no rain, smiles with no tears. By the laws of the universe, there is an inevitable polarity we must all experience.

The fourth Hermetic principle of polarity states that all things are dual, containing opposite polarities. For light there is dark; for dark there is light.

One will never master themselves if they run after the light and away from the dark. Because polarity is inevitable, one who chases one polarity over another is a fool. To become comfortable with both is freeing yourself from the hindrance of attachment which keeps you chasing happiness.

Simply be in the moment, regardless of how you feel about it. Pleasure is just as temporary as pain. Don’t attach to one and run from the other, for you will inevitably experience the swing of rhythm between these polarities. 

Stop running away and face yourself. Have the compassion to heal the pain you are experiencing by having the will to face it head-on—walking the path of strength. 

Pain is inevitable, so kick your feet up and get comfortable in hell. You’ll be here a while. Learn the lessons you can on this earth plane full of pain and suffering. 

You won’t be here forever, but there are valuable lessons to be learned while you are—so long as you can remain open to them. 

There is a war waging within that no one but yourself has the power to end. 

Become comfortable with the uncomfortable, surrender to the moment, and learn from every experience you encounter.

Read 4 Comments and Reply

Read 4 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Rubaab Malik

author: Rubaab Malik

Image: Indy Sidhu / Flickr

Editor: Kelsey Michal