All of us suffer in some degree. Even Buddhist monks with decades of meditation experience suffer. The important question is how do you react to suffering? Most of us have a knee jerk reaction to pain and suffering. We cower away from it. Try to hide. Try to push it away. We want it to end as quickly as possible, and thereby we miss the important lessons it can teach us.
Suffering can be your greatest teacher, but it gives you information that is hard to handle. It is painful. It tells you that you are not aligned with what you know to be true – You have strayed off course.
Whenever you suffer take a step back. Stop the impulse to cower away from it. See the suffering as just something that is and ask yourself: “why do I suffer?” How have you strayed away from the center? The answer to that question can give you the path back to center. Your pain and you are one. You are your own teacher.
Suffering gives you tremendous energy. Do not give it away to watching entire seasons of mindless TV shows, Facebook, binge eating or excessive drinking. Suffering is the base metal that you can transmute into gold. Embrace it as the best raw material you could imagine. This is alchemy – Transmuting pain into love, presence and awareness – Oneness.
Use suffering as a fuel for spiritual growth. Nothing is a better motivation to become completely present to the moment than suffering. Becoming present to the moment is not running away from the pain, however. It is accepting it as part of that moment’s reality and embracing it. It is. But why is it?
Suffering is a result of squeezing the now between two infinite pasts and futures. These pasts and futures are entirely fictitious, but they seem so real. You have obviously done things before and you will obviously do more, but are they real? Have you ever experienced anything outside of the present moment?
You create the past and present by making judgements; By clinging to what you have and what you want; By trying to stay away from what you don’t like. By trying to dominate your environment.
Letting go is how you make gold. Letting go is not fatalism. It is not giving up. Letting go is living in the moment. It is experiencing what is and not what you construct in your mind. It is taking away the layers of filters and experiencing raw reality and its entire splendor. When you let go you open up a space that grows the more you let go. It can grow to infinite size. That space is love.
Contemplating suffering is the 15th step in the 16 steps to enlightenment in the Pali scriptures. The Pali word for suffering, anxiety or stress is Dukkha. Buddha once said:
“I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.”
“To the Buddha the entire teaching is just the understanding of dukkha, the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence, and the understanding of the way out of this unsatisfactoriness.” – Piyadassi Thera
Embrace suffering as signals for how you are straying off the path – Road signs to your enlightenment. And remember that enlightenment is not a goal. Enlightenment is already there. It is the road itself.