suffering

24 Oct

Years ago I went to a dharma talk entitled, “The Nature of Suffering”. This was before my introduction to the world of Buddhism, of bliss, of stilling the mind. This was in the middle of my crazy mind, newly released from anti-depressants.

I went to the talk thinking that suffering had nothing to do with me. I had in my mind visions of third world countries and starving children. People scraping to get by. Pretty ironic, considering that I myself was raw, newly off of anti-depressants and dependent on yoga to sustain me. I had never classified my depression as suffering before. It was a huge “a-ha” moment for me.

The year following that talk I found my paradigms of life shifting. I became more aware of my thought process and found that karma was powerful in the energetic field of thought waves. Positive thinking became a way of life and living in the present moment became a key to my happiness. Santosha, or contentment became a guiding principle for how I framed my thinking. I surrendered many of my attachments to what I thought was important in life. It was liberating.

Yesterday a friend was telling me about her beautiful new house, explaining that she needed more square footage.  The chat quickly went to the horrors of trying to prepare her current, huge, beautiful house for sale,  keeping it clean for showings and worrying about whether it will sell quickly. About every two months I have the same discussion with someone new.  I find it extremely hilarious. I need….more square footage. More square footage to fill with more stuff and more children and more maintenance and more bills and more… happiness? I need… I want… I expect… One simple thought creates a whole lot of suffering!

We all learned it when we were kids… happiness comes from within. Somehow that is just too simple for us to believe, so we skip right over it and rush off in the world to search for happiness somewhere else. Our culture perpetuates the collective thought that we are not enough. We are not beautiful enough, wealthy enough, powerful enough or smart enough. Our houses are not big enough, our loved ones aren’t helpful enough and jobs are not fulfilling enough. We are bombarded with comparisons and disparity. If you live without an awareness of what is going on around you, you will be eaten up in the mad rush to do more and be more. I see it everywhere… people jumping from one distraction to another. My pampered, spoiled world is surrounded by suffering.

I’m not poo-poo-ing this type of suffering. It is real. I’m also not judging it. I am no master and I often find myself jumping on and off the same endless wheel of desire. Let’s call it what it is. When we’re in that mode of unconscious dissatisfaction, it is a form of seeking. It is our way in. We’re seeking happiness and our suffering is waking us up and taking us deeper inside. When I jump into the game of “I want… I need”, I try to stand back and say, “Oh. Hello suffering. It must be time to start paying attention again.”

I just found out that the husband of one of my best friends has an in-operable brain tumor. It’s the worst kind of tumor you can have and it is stage 4. That means that he has anywhere from 2 months to several years to live. News like this brings life screaming back into perspective for me. I look at my friend, her husband and their two beautiful children. They have a blessed and beautiful life. This man has had a lot of joy in his 39 years. When he says good-bye to this existence it will be a sad farewell, but also the end of a beautiful life well lived and full of love. This is suffering on an unimaginable scale, and again I’m reminded to wake up, slow down and experience joy right now.

Joy is our birthright. Happiness is our natural state of existence and its one of the great purposes of this life on earth. This life is not about proving ourselves worthy of a future reward. It’s not about lining everything up perfectly so that then we can experience happiness.  This existence is about embracing every moment we have with an open heart and an honest mind. It’s about recognizing where we are right now as perfect and whole. It’s about learning to recognize the God-consciousness that we all have within us and living our personal dharma. I’m convinced that if we could recognize the seeds of divinity within ourselves and get a small glimpse of our own potential we would be blown away. Blown away. The world would never be the same. Frances of Assisi said, “what we are looking for is what is looking.” Rabbi Kushner said, “Hold up your hands in front of your eyes. You are looking at the hands of God.”

Now isn’t that something to smile about?

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3 Responses to “suffering”

  1. seangreenfrog October 24, 2007 at 7:14 pm #

    This reminds me of a Jack Kornfield point that not seeing suffering is, itself, a form of suffering. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Lisa October 25, 2007 at 6:39 pm #

    Yes, very insightful post. I’m notorious for getting on the “I want, I need” wheel and then suffering. I don’t always call it that, though, and I probably should. Thanks for the reminder!

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