What If We Don't Have To Suffer?Apr 25, 2022
Most religions and philosophies, going back thousands of years (and maybe more), have conditioned us to believe suffering is an integral part of life. They have taught that our suffering is brought about by ignorance, misconceptions about who we are, and bad attitudes or actions. The Buddha taught that suffering was one of the Four Noble Truths which can lead to enlightenment.
Myths and fairy tales, all our favorite movies and stories include a hero/heroine who has experienced great suffering. They go through what we call “the dark night of the soul”, a time of despair, loneliness, and overwhelming challenges they must face all on their own. In many of these stories, ordinary people do extraordinary things in the face of physical challenge and emotional hardship, courageously moving through their suffering to emerge as the hero of the story, giving hope to all.
We also learn, from our earliest years, to avoid pain and suffering. We do our best to control or escape suffering, whether it’s related to physical pain (there’s a pill for that), disease, fear of failure (and success), the loss of a loved one, and more. No one really wants to hurt or to suffer.
Suffering is linked with pain, but pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is an awareness of discomfort on physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual levels. The definition of suffering is, according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, “to be made to bear, to be the victim of, to put up with, to undergo or be subjected to; to allow; to experience pain or injury, to experience loss, deterioration, etc.” A major aspect of this definition is the term “to be made to bear.” When forced to bear something, we cannot escape it! We feel like a victim of our situation, without choices (and maybe even feeling hopeless).
Pain, as mentioned earlier, is an awareness. Pain is there to inform us that something is wrong and requires a change. Pain is defined as “an unpleasant feeling which you have in a part of your body because you have been hurt or ill” and “the feeling of deep unhappiness that you have when unpleasant or upsetting things happen”.
Both pain, and suffering, are part of the human condition. Neither can be completely avoided.
But I believe our suffering can be minimized. I believe suffering does not have to be an integral part of our lives.
Pain is there to inform us that something needs to change. Whether or not we choose to listen reflects how much suffering we will experience.
There’s an analogy I share about a feather, a brick, and a truck. I’m not sure who originally said this, but it’s great for getting the point across. The feather, brick, and truck refer to the chances we get to learn from a situation and make a different choice.
The feather is a subtle feeling that something is off and needs to change. Maybe it’s an intuition about a person or situation, a red flag, a stuffy nose.
The brick hits a little harder. It’s a more painful life lesson or illness.
If we ignore both of those, eventually we get hit by the truck. This is (like getting hit by a truck would be) a major crisis, one that will take much longer to recover from.
When we embrace the idea that all our feelings are valid and are here to help us improve–even and especially the painful ones–we can navigate life more smoothly, with less suffering.
Join us for a free breathwork session, which we offer every Sunday, and discover how breathwork helps you feel and heal in a gentle yet powerful way. Because it’s time to stop suffering.
April 23, 2022
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