The Realities of Suffering

So, no matter how good one gets at slowing down, bad shit still happens. The difference is, one is much better equipped to deal with it. Instead of shooting off into chaos, you can maintain some presence, some stillness, which steadies your reserves and anchors the experience. Anchoring the experience may not sound like a good idea, but in my life it seems that it allows me the opportunity to experience it fully so that when the experience is complete, it is over. Contrast that with the flailing about, trying to outrun the bad experience, managing it to whatever extent one is forced to, and running out of the experience at top speed wishing it never happened. That’s basically how I approached almost everything before this slowing down process began, and I’m pretty sure it is why I’ve had to re-address basically everything in my adulthood during this process.

Life is Suffering. That’s what Buddha said. But, he also described the end of suffering, and while I cannot expound on Buddhist doctrine, I can say with certainty that Pain is Inevitable but Suffering is Optional. Suffering is the resistance to the pain.

Approaching pain as part of the process of life, and noticing in your own experience that very often pain preceded a great breakthrough or important change in life, there is the possibility that one can approach pain with equanimity. Like, “OK, I see you’re here, and I get that while perhaps you are unwelcome you probably come bearing gifts. Not really enjoying this process, but come on in, do what you’ve got to do. I’ll do my best to be centered in myself and breathe while you wreak your havoc, knowing that when you’ve passed, I’ve got the resources to rebuild.”

Avoiding, resisting, and trying to run away from whatever it is that is happening just keeps it around longer. And even when it goes, it doesn’t really leave. It doesn’t leave until you face it. At least that’s been my experience. And facing it is never as scary as it seems. My experience is that whatever turmoil looks to me like a black pit of despair, when I take a breath and get brave and face it head-on, it’s really just a thin oil slick.

I’ve heard that when you come to a crossroads, that’s the time to really slow down. If you take the known and comfortable (and quickest) path, you’ll do a full circle and end up right back at the crossroads. I have experienced that to be true. When I make the expedient decision, I always have to readdress it in some form or another (usually bigger and with broader implications). Slowing down, finding footing on a new approach, being really present instead of trying to rush past something, I find actually becomes quite interesting.

This is not my favorite post. This is not my favorite concept, although the principles in here have made difficulty no longer my least favorite concept. Indeed, the principles here have made difficulty more interesting than threatening, evoking more curiosity than avoidance, and that is a quantum shift in my approach to life. It is uncomfortable to say the least, but staying grounded through the discomfort has made it far less painful, or using the parlance above, I experience far less suffering. Actually, it’s both. The attitude of leaning in to the discomfort minimizes the suffering which, in my case, minimizes the pain. Perhaps the pain itself (mental, emotional or physical) doesn’t change, but because my relationship to the pain changes, my experience of it changes. Dramatically. In all those categories, time and again.

There is so much potential here for a much better post, but this is what came today, through some frustrating experiences earlier in the day. I’d like to do this concept justice, but I’m grateful for the reminders this writing brings me as I engage with moving through and transforming my experience.

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