S is for Suffering
“Pain is certain; suffering is optional.”
The Buddha famously said, ‘life is suffering,’ which is true if you believe it. It does not, however, have to be that way. The Buddha also said that suffering is optional. I think pain is a bodily experience, whereas suffering is a condition of the mind. There can be one without the other.
Henry Ford has been attributed with saying, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s a choice, and each individual gets to decide how to proceed. I believe the same goes for suffering. You can decide to suffer or not; it is up to you.
Let us use the example of having to receive a dozen stitches in your arm from a wound. The cut is deep, and it hurts. There may be lots of blood around the amount, and you may not be able to focus on anything except the hurt and the discomfort that has become your entire world at that moment.
That is not suffering; however, it is pain. Suffering enters when we start agonizing over the pain and when we attach the human idea of “woe is me” or begin to project the worst-case scenario as our monkey mind will almost certainly always do to try and keep us safe.
If we remove ourselves from ourselves and just observe the reality of the situation from a detached point of view, we stop it at the level of pain and do not suffer.
The irony in this scenario is that suffering is ego-driven. So by placing the attention on Me, My or I, in the act of Suffering, It is actually the ego taking over.
If that were not the case and you were to accept that this is unpleasant, but the doctor will fix me up, and everything will be acceptable, then you will not suffer; you will simply be in pain.
A helpful strategy in this situation would be to feel compassion for other people, and once that happens, you are no longer separated by your ego. Thus, you become connected again to all that is, and you will see an instant transformation from suffering into compassion. Which would you instead feel?