mindfulness and suffering

This dog amused me more than the other images I got when I looked for “Buddha.” Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/superfantastic/

Children do this. There is something that needs to be done that they cannot initially figure out and may be bad. They stress over it and put it off for a long time. When they FINALLY sit down to do it, it turns out it wasn’t that bad.

Oh sorry, did I only say children? I should have said people in general do this. All the time.

What does this have to do with suffering?

Buddhism often talks about “suffering.” I think that this is an imperfect translation. Sometimes, certainly, the things around us constitute witnessing suffering or ourselves suffering. Sometimes they are not so bad.

Sometimes “unpleasantness” will do just fine.

The important note in Buddhist discussion of suffering is to accept it. This is not so different from simply thinking about it sometimes and then letting it go. Do not obsess over suffering or unpleasantness. Do not be afraid to think about it either.

This is not so different from the concept of “big mind.” One must be honest with one’s self when it comes to thoughts. To suppress thoughts is to give thoughts power and to let them creep up and cause anxiety.

This is naturally easier to do with thoughts that are merely unpleasant than thoughts that are really, truly about suffering. Either way though, it must be confronted. To live without confronting the thoughts is to be dishonest with one’s self. Perhaps you need to join a support group. Perhaps you need to have a heart to heart conversation. Perhaps you need to write about it.

This is all fine. This is good. Do not suppress, however painful. When you suppress you ultimately cause anxiety and putting off that suffering will in the long run make things worse for you and cause more suffering down the line.

A policy of confronting these thoughts will end up leaving you happier. This is one of the main concepts that has made Buddhism so popular. It is a good practice.


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