Someone observed that suffering is what happens when a person adds something on. Suffering is generated when thoughts are piled on to a challenging life development, or a loss, or physical discomfort. Each of which, in its essence, may be inherently painful, absorbing of a certain kind of attention. But there needn’t be suffering.
Suffering is what occurs when the next step is taken. When a rainy day isn’t allowed to be simply a rainy day, but grousing is piled on to it. It’s the uncomfortable pressure that occurs when resistance starts up. When the loss of a job isn’t allowed to be its plain self – the end of a job – but is weighted down by the story of looming disaster, or the idea of being a failure as a person.
While difficult life developments are inevitable, suffering is not.
Life stuff needn’t lead to the secondary step of suffering. While difficult life developments are inevitable, suffering is not. (Now there’s a radical idea for you.)
Such a waste of pain. The layered-on misery of pointlessly wishing things were other than they are, or going back over how a thing could have been prevented. What is it to just be with the difficulty, unburdened of the story you might have drummed up? It’s to accept the truth of the situation. It’s to feel what the circumstances stir in your body, without going into your head to try to avoid the hurt, or to generate a consoling narrative, or one full of blame and regret.
Life is not going to be pain-free. Loss visits at intervals. Things don’t always go the way we’d like. We get sick. People die. Is it not supposed to hurt to live a rich human life?
But aren’t these things suffering? No, not when they’re allowed to be as they are, without that extra step that occurs when thought moves in to handle what’s happened. To allow grief in its fullness, without mental handling, can be an experience of vast tenderness. A breaking heart feels exquisitely alive, even while the pain might be breathtaking.
So it’s a matter of seeing the difference between the “clean” pain of being alive, and the layered-on agony (pointless, unnecessary) of wishing life were otherwise, or trying to escape the truth, or making it into a story with justifications and assurances about a better future.
When nothing is added on to life, but it is fully allowed to be as it is, then you don’t suffer. You feel alive, even during the times of pain. As you continue on, you travel lightly, not carrying the burden of what’s happened. Life is ever fresh. Even when it hurts.