I heard a beautiful line from my meditation teacher Christian Bevaqua the other night as he was addressing the group. “It is time to let go of suffering as a part of your identity.”
I lived with a lot of personal suffering for a long time. I would set myself up for it over and over again. It has been so powerful for me over the last several years to delineate between pain and suffering. I’ve come to understand that pain is inevitable in life but suffering is optional. Our heart will be broken, we’ll lose a loved one, we’ll lose a job, we’ll be wronged, we’ll get sick, we’ll lose our house, our money, our pride, you name it. Pain will come and pain will go. But suffering is actually caused by our resistance to the pain. “I’m in pain and I hate that I’m in pain, it’s wrong that I’m in pain, it’s not fair, I’ve always been in pain and I’ll always be in pain, why is God, the Universe, etc against me?” This is suffering.
It is our resistance to and denial of WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING that causes our suffering, not the painful experience itself. I am not saying that the pain of our lives is not often very hard to deal with, but we tend to make it 10 times worse by resisting it. Rather than trying our best to flow with it and pay attention to what it is that it is here to teach us.
We all know someone, maybe that someone is ourselves, that always seems to find a way to suffer, no matter the circumstance. “A bad thing happened because bad things always happen to me.” “A good thing happened but I know it won’t last, as soon as I get excited about it, another bad thing will happen.” In this case, it seems that suffering has become a large part of our identity. We don’t like it, but we know it and we find a strange comfort in the unliked known rather than the terrifying unknown. I believe it’s an addiction of sorts. We can’t seem to stop thinking the thing, feeling the thing, doing the thing that we know is bad for us. We can’t seem to keep thinking the thing, feeling the thing, doing the thing that we know is good for us. Often the fear is that if we drop our suffering, who are we? If we drop our story of “my life is so hard” no matter the circumstance, what’s our story?
What if the story is that the universe did not put us here to suffer?
What if the story is that to be born as a human being is an extremely rare and grand opportunity?
What if the story, the life directive, is for us to relax and enjoy?
I like that story.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Let us try our best to RELAX AND ENJOY.
Photo by Melia Sorenson