Category Archives: Suffering

Three Truths and One Wish

sunflowerpath1. We all want the same thing: to find happiness and avoid suffering. We are the same, connected by this shared intention. An awareness of this fundamental fact has the potential to generate compassion, cultivate wisdom, foster connection and relationship.

2. Life is suffering. This isn’t just my own belief — it is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, “life is suffering,” which is defined more specifically as old age, sickness, and death. These are the things we can’t avoid because they simply are the nature of being human. If we are lucky, we grow old, and even if we don’t get that old we all age, continuing to get older with each passing day. We will get sick, even if we are relatively healthy and strong. And we all eventually die.

3. We generate unnecessary suffering, for ourselves and others. This goes beyond the suffering that we cannot avoid (aging, sickness, death) into a whole other territory of our own creation. In our efforts to seek happiness and bypass suffering, we can get confused. We resist change, we deny impermanence is real, we struggle against all kinds of perceived obstacles, we try to avoid discomfort, we reject what is happening, we freak out and run away, we hide, we numb out, we blame others for our problems, we are aggressive, even violent, we chase after what we think might make us happy, attempting to capture and imprison it.

One wish: May we work to ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world. May we seek out the ways we are generating suffering and root them out, transform the old patterns and habitual ways of being that make things more difficult and dark. May we remember who we are, fundamentally compassionate and wise. May we have the courage to dispel confusion, in ourselves and others. May we find it in ourselves to truly forgive, to open our hearts, be fully present and deeply loving.

 

Day of Rest

driftwoodbeachbird

the beach at Waldport, where half my heart lives

On October 1st, Humans of New York posted the following. The picture wasn’t what drew me in, although she is a beautiful woman, it’s what she said. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, keep wondering where I need to go deeper.

“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”

“When a wave comes, go deep.”

“I think I’m going to need an explanation for that one.”

“There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”

This reminds me of a story I heard Pema Chödrön tell once, about an interview she had with Chögyam Trungpa where she asked him some version of “My life is falling apart, I’m totally miserable, and what should I do?” and his reply was,

Well, it’s like being in the ocean when the waves are really rough and high. They knock you over and you find yourself on the floor of the ocean with your face in the sand. The sand is getting in your nose and your mouth and your eyes and the waves are holding you down. But then the wave recedes and you stand back up and you walk until the next waves comes in and knocks you down and the same thing keeps happening. And each time you just stand back up and after awhile it seems to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller, (from How I met Rinpoche).

So today, on this day of rest, there is this: with each difficulty, within struggle, we can go deeper, and with practice, we become stronger — in both ways, one can “transform yourself to match the circumstances.” This seems to me to be really good news, knowing that suffering is fundamentally workable.