25 Mar Suffering is Optional – March 26 2021
Posted at 19:42h in Daily Thoughts
Pain is physical; suffering is mental. Beyond the mind there is no suffering. Pain is merely a signal that the body is in danger and requires attention. Similarly, suffering warns us that the structure of memories and habits, which we call the person, is threatened by loss or change. Pain is essential for the survival of the body, but none compels you to suffer. Suffering is due entirely to clinging or resisting; it is a sign of our unwillingess to move on, to flow with life.
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That
The existence of suffering is the great, unsolved problem of the modern world. So many people suffer, and so few systems, religious or secular, offer relief. So much so that many of the world’s religions teach that suffering is a virtue–not because the benefit of suffering is plain to see, but rather because no one can tell you how to bypass it, how to avoid it. It’s there in your experience of life. What does it mean?
In the Vedic worldview it is made clear that suffering is not a given. It is, rather, founded entirely in our point of view on the facts of our life. To the precise degree that I am unable to find acceptance of some aspect of my life, I will suffer. To the degree I am able to find acceptance, I will know peace.
Looked at in this way, suffering is actually a choice. I want things to be a certain way. Things turn out differently. I am unable to let go of my want, and so I begin to speculate:
- What does it all mean?
- Why me? or Why not me?
- What if I had done this thing differently?
- What if I hadn’t said that thing?
- What if I had waited? What if I had gone sooner?
- What if I had prayed harder?
- Why didn’t I ________?
- If only I had ________?
- Is there something wrong with me? With them? With the world?
- Does God hate me? Is this happening because I hate God?
And on and on, living in our past and replaying it so that maybe it will come out differently, or living in a future in which things turn out the way they should have, or in which I die because I screwed up so badly. In every case, living not at all in the present. Missing out on my life. And suffering.
In meditation we discover the truth of our Being: that beyond our thoughts, our ego, our self-image, we are perfect, whole and complete. We are exactly who and what we are meant to be, now, in this moment; and everything is exactly as it is meant to be, now, in this moment. Everything, absolutely everything, in your life is exactly as it is meant to be. Without exception. Tragedy, comedy, like it or not. Everything is the way it must be. It is up to me to accept this, not begrudgingly, but with the joy of knowing that by accepting my life exactly as it is, I am aligning myself with Self. With nature. With God. And by this alignment, I finally am making myself available to the support that Self/nature/God has been waiting to give me.