If you turn on any news channel or read any news publication or social media channel and pay careful attention to what is being said or written, you will discover that they basically report on human suffering.
It could be wars, ethnic cleansing, shootings, knife crimes, sexual assaults, human trafficking, drug offences and the list goes on, stories of countless human suffering inflicted on humans by other humans.
I’ve only started to wake up to human suffering after hearing the Dalai Lama speak about it a few years ago. He says that everyone is entitled to their human suffering and instead of interfering with it, we should have compassion for their suffering.
Everyone’s entitled? But what if it is inflicted on the innocent, what if those that have been inflicted with suffering were just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
That surely is not entitlement?
Every single person on this world, 7.8 billion at the last count will encounter suffering in their lives, some more then others granted, but nevertheless even the so-called fortunate and wealthy experience suffering. It’s not a condition reserved for the few, it is part of the human condition all across the world. Even animals experience suffering.
The question for all of us is, how do we cope with suffering? If suffering is a condition we will all experience throughout our lives, why then are we not more prepared for it? Why are we not taught at school how to cope with suffering? Why are we not taught to recognise suffering when it appears in our lives and how our organism, our body and mind can deal with it appropriately?
It seems that the only enlightened humans are Buddhist monks who study mindfulness as a method for overcoming suffering. So why do they need to study it full-time, is it so hard that they need to spend all their time and all of their lives studying the meaning of suffering and strategies for overcoming it? If they need to do this full-time, then surely there’s no chance for us regular ordinary busy humans, who are trying to make a living, cope with our families, cope with our bosses, work colleagues and debt collectors? Doing this part-time obviously doesn’t work.
I often feel that Buddhist monks have it easy, surely? They spend all their time learning and practicing mindfulness for themselves and appear to have no other regular human issues to deal with. I genuinely have often thought about becoming one, but then again I’m too much of a coward.
I accept that we’re not necessarily always experiencing suffering. When we receive stuff, money, gifts, trips etc. in our lives, we perceive that we’re actually not suffering, is that really true? What if the stuff, the amount of money, the trips are not enough in some way, do we go into suffering about this? Absolutely we do! When we perceive unpleasant thoughts about anything, it can be classed as suffering. In addition we perceive those unpleasant thoughts frequently when we project the future in our minds. Often our thoughts of potential suffering are entirely fictional, not true and made up by us.
Yes, suffering is real, whether it’s projected into the future or experienced through events in our lives. Either way I do believe it’s about the meaning we give those events and we do have the power, although I know it’s quite hard, to change the meaning we give to those events and better still try to give them no meaning at all. Now that’s the holy grail!
Truthfully I haven’t got the answer, I know that becoming a monk for me is probably not the answer. Looking at events differently, which I have done for at least 18 years now, has undoubtedly improved my perceived happiness and reduced the experienced events of suffering in my life.
My sincere compassionate advice to anyone interested in understanding suffering better in our lives is to examine our conditioned minds. We spontaneously react to events based on our conditioning, which we have experienced, through our parents, our teachers, our siblings, our friends, the media and many more relationships. This is only half of the story though, the bit where humans inflict suffering on others is still a total puzzle to me, except that they have will definitely have been conditioned in some way like all of us are.
I was inspired to write this article after becoming aware of the events surround the Taliban in Afghanistan and the shooting and killing of 6 people in Plymouth U.K. on the 12th August, 2021.
Feel free to comment below with your stories of how you overcome suffering in your life.
Originally published at https://www.stayingaliveuk.com on August 16, 2021.