“Pain Is Inevitable. Suffering is Optional.” (Zen Aphorism)
It’s a very famous quote that I’ve heard many, many times but only recently began to get a sense of what I think it really means. Life happens, stuff happens — this is inevitable and responding with pure, genuine, heart felt pain is what is natural. Or said another way, it is letting your heart break open with love.
But what is suffering? I think suffering is letting your heart close down in judgement — judgement either of one’s self, another or a situation, whatever that may be. Suffering includes regrets, all forms of “if only’s” and “I should have’s”. It also includes believing that there is something wrong that you have done or something intrinsically wrong with you or another. Blame of anything or anyone leads to suffering. Negative out-picturing of events, past, present and future also cause suffering. An idea that says life can never be the same without a person, a situation, or a condition being met, will certainly lead you on a path to suffering. If we do the simple math, it often looks like: this happened + I judge it to mean this painful thing = I now suffer.
Any time you are in pain that has led to suffering you can be certain it includes some type of discrimination. I call it discrimination because it selectively screens out what is truth in favor of a perception that separates you from believing in yourself or others and ultimately from believing in Life’s tendency to flow towards well being, balance, order, benevolence and grace. As long as we are willing to settle for conclusions and judgements that separate us from all that Life willingly and daily offers up to us, we will suffer.
Where’s the way out? When suffering, ask yourself what are you believing about yourself, another or the situation right now. Now ask yourself if you unequivocally know that whatever it is you are believing, is absolutely true. There is very little, if anything, to which you can honestly respond with a yes. Now, are you willing to suspend what you’ve been believing? You see, wanting to be on the other side of suffering is a beginning and wanting to be in self friendly relationship with yourself is a must. Yet wanting won’t be enough, it requires your willingness to live in harmony with yourself. And sometimes that willingness comes a bit at a time but come it will for one who is ready to walk in harmony with his or herself.
Want the world to be a peaceful, harmonious place, a world filled with love and loving people, want it to be a world without discrimination? It all starts at home with a willingness to walk the inner walk of living in friendship with ourselves one step, one day at a time.