Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional

This quote, made popular by Haruki Murakami, is an old Buddhist saying.

It resonates with me on so many levels, and I would to give you some food for thought.

Pain is part of life.  It does not have to rule your life.  Suffering is not part of life.  We do it to ourselves.

People die on us.  We lose jobs, homes.  We get sick.  We break bones.  This is life.  This hurts.

When we feel this type of pain, it is what we call an appropriate emotion; an appropriate response to life events that hurt.

If you stand back from it and cast a critical eye over your life, you will find that these events, thankfully, do not occur that frequently.

That said, it may seem that this pain takes over your life for some of you reading this.  You suffer.

Where does the suffering come from?

You.

Let me explain on a more light-hearted note.  If you met me last month, I was nasty to you and kicked you hard on your shin.  This will hurt.  It will hurt physically, on your shin.  It may also hurt you emotionally.

If you spent the past month thinking about it, “what a bitch, why did she do this to me?” and maybe working out exactly what to say to me when you saw me again.  This is what makes you suffer.

The more you think about it, the more intense the feelings come.  You may notice that you feel extremely angry or upset each time you think about it.  You re-live it.  I might as well be by your side every day, kicking your shin.

When this happens, it is no longer me that is causing your pain.  You suffer because you do not let it go.

Maybe you think this is unfair – why should you let it go?

On the grand scale of life.  These events are not important.  I am not important.  There are “the big things” that you have no control over that will cause you pain.

The other stuff?  The small things; ask yourself.  Are they really that important to take up your personal space in your head, knowing that they make you feel bad?

This is the part where you have the control that you can avoid.  Choosing to let go of the relentless thoughts in your head, the rehashing of events that have already happened, and are in the past, allows you to put an end to unnecessary suffering.

When something hurts you, you will feel the appropriate pain.  This will ease.  When it does, let it go.

Further reading;

  1. Understand anxiety.