SUFFERING

DEFINITION

Suffering

  • A state of acute pain
  • Misery resulting from affliction
  • Psychological suffering
  • Feelings of mental or physical pain


Life is suffering, as some of the ancient religions have taught. Everyone must suffer here. It’s your job, but don’t worry, the next life will be better, or if it’s not, definitely the afterlife. Sorry, could someone explain this to me? I mean in plain english, where I can understand why everyone must suffer.
Of course, there are probably a million religious or philosophical ideas as to why life is suffering, but I’m not buying into it, and neither should you.

Physically, I had a normal childhood. My parents looked after me well, and I didn’t want for anything materially; but when my father left us, I felt lost and abandoned. I couldn’t understand it, and neither could my mother. She went into a deep state of depression, and I struggled on through my schooling; but I was still alive, well clothed, and warm in the winter.

Throughout my adult life, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, but not at a conscious level. One moment I was fine, the next I was having cold sweats, shaking and feeling the need to escape anywhere.

Through close self study, the development of awareness, the use of positive imagery and self talk, I have managed to transcend the suffering in my mind that has caused me to finish relationships, leave countries I was living in, and run away from jobs. I now accept that this mental illness (because that’s what it is) was a part of life, and part of living, and perhaps the price I had to pay for having such a large complex brain (as we all have).

When we talk about suffering, most of you will associate images of children dying of starvation, populations devastated by flood and war, and images of people living in extreme poverty. Although these people are suffering terribly, the suffering is caused by their external environment, something they could always try to escape.

The suffering I want to talk to you about is not physical, but it is also not through mental illness. This is daily suffering, brought about by thinking. Suffering that cannot be escaped from. You cannot run away from yourself, after all, except through perhaps killing yourself, but why go to all that bother when the answer may just be a question away…
“How’s life alan?”
“How’s life? I’ll tell you how life is, it’s utterly shit! I hate my life.”
“Oh, sorry for asking.”
So when asked about how your life is “doing,” what are you basing it on? Financial and personal success in business? The prettiness of your wife? The size of your house or car? The envy your friends show you? Have a good long think about that and I’ll be back to you in a moment…
The problem is, we look at how other people are doing, and then we compare ourselves to them. If our best friend is successful and happy, and we aren’t, we then think there must be something wrong.

Stop Suffering NOW

I’ll tell you how your “life” is, like mine, it’s just perfect. Remember, we are not comparing anything here. You are alive and living on a wonderfully abundant planet (compared with, say mars, ooh, sorry we’re not meant to be comparing!). It’s only when you start thinking that things start going wrong. Where desire and greed rear their ugly head, where you bring in comparison and start to think, “jeez, I’m really miserable.”

I have one thing to say to you. Unless you are incarcerated in a mental hospital for your own and others protection, this is the life you have created. You are the creator of everything. There is no point blaming everyone else for the situation you find yourself in. It is only through thinking you have started suffering, which is mental anguish. After all, physical suffering is through torture, malnutrition, lack of water etc.

Some monks actively pursue this kind of physical suffering in order to attain enlightenment through fasting, or self flagellation (beating as a source of erotic or religious stimulation), but I don’t recommend it! If you want to lose a bit of weight, go ahead and stop eating for a day or so, or if you fancy a bit of erotic pleasure get someone to beat you with a whip, but suffering for religious reasons is pointless!

When I set off on my journey of self-discovery, I thought that that kind of suffering was to be encouraged, after all, we slovenly sit around watching tv every night drinking beer, and generally getting fat, so in order to be different to the masses, fasting and a strict simple lifestyle were a must.

The lifestyle of a monk, I concluded, was where I was headed; a strict diet served in a simple bowl with lots of serious meditation and being serious. Only through this path could I attain enlightenment, leave this feeble earth body behind, and join in with the rest of the enlightened ones as part of the universal consciousness! After all, that’s what the other monks are trying to do, get out of the cycle of suffering, and do a little bit of praying for the poor souls left behind.

After a while, I began to think this was all a little bit selfish, and a little bit pointless. Why would I have to punish my own body in order to cleanse my mind? Couldn’t I do it without subjecting myself to a religious institution where the first lesson you learn is that all life is suffering? I thought it all a bit negative and decided to go my own way!

Several years went by, and I was still “suffering.” I began to think that maybe these monks were right after all, so I returned to a retreat to do some serious thinking. “Why am I suffering,” I thought. And then it came to me: “I thought,” that was the key to this! Why couldn’t I see it before?

Without thinking, life is just as it is. The trees blossom in the spring and the leaves fall in autumn. Every day the tide turns. The mountain is still the mountain. Water is water. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am sad. Sometimes the weight of the world is on my shoulders, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I make money, sometimes I don’t. Water is still water, and every autumn the leaves fall from the trees. I can see why the monks want free of this life, maybe it’s not exciting enough for them!
That’s when I decided that all this “life is suffering” was frankly a load of old crap! If you think life is suffering, chances are you will create a life that is suffering. Come on, we’re supposed to be the most intelligent species in the universe, it’s not that hard. You normally get more of what you think about.
If you think life is suffering, then in all probability, it will be. If you think all is perfect, then it is, do you follow? So after reading that, “how’s your life? Shit? Or just perfect?” In fact, it isn’t either, life just is. How’s your thinking?

So when I ask you are you suffering what is your answer?

Don’t beat yourself up with a whip, or fast for days on end; start to use your intelligence. If life was meant to be suffering, how come it’s only you suffering and everyone else isn’t? The monks would say that everyone is suffering, and they are just living in an illusion by denying it, but we don’t need to buy into that; that’s just their opinion, after all. How do they really know that life is suffering?

Sure, some people may be unhappy, or have no money, no job or no car, or be oppressed by a vicious dictator, but that has more to do with the society we have created than anything else.

When we see people starving on the tv, we agree that, yes, they are suffering, but not because it is part of a divine plan, but because their economy is dead, the country is in political turmoil, and more often than not, there are too many of them for the land to support.

Do you think our distant ancestors were “suffering?” They may have had to scavenge for food and fight off attackers, but that has more to do with the natural world and how life was back then. You did everything you could just to survive. It is only now when we have a relatively abundant harvest of food that we all have the time to wonder if we are suffering or not!

So I ask you again, are you suffering? You still have no money, no job, no prospects. But If you have some food and a little shelter you are off to a flying start. Forget about your job, that’s unimportant. When you need to, you will create the job you want. Remember there is only you in charge here. This is survival.
What would our cavemen ancestors do? Sit around twiddling their thumbs, questioning the nature of suffering whilst going very, very hungry? I think not. You, and only you, have the power to create what you want in life, but now is not suffering. Having a job may ease some money worries and make your life easier in the financial sense, but if you think you are suffering then you will. Do you follow?

Your life is perfect already. Once you understand that, the rest will start to fall into place; but until that time, you will still believe that life is suffering. “Why does he have a better job than me?” “Why is his girlfriend prettier than mine?” “Why does she have a better group of friends than I do?” “Why have I always got all these bills?” “I want a better job, I want a better life.”
Remember, there is no such thing as a “better” life. Life is just life. It goes on all around us and doesn’t care if we are suffering or not. Do you understand?

Water is water. The trees shed their leaves in autumn. The flowers grow in spring. The trees shed their leaves in autumn. Water is water. Life is life.
There is no such thing as suffering. It is not real, it is an imaginary concept created by a mind that is constantly grasping for more, constantly striving to gain more status, more money, more happiness, but the thoughts your mind gives you, those are the real illusion.

So give up the illusion of suffering, and enjoy every minute of your life. It’s a wonderful planet (better than mars or the moon: sorry there I go comparing again), full of such joy. You just have to wake up to see it. Those who are caught in the belief that they are suffering just can’t see it. But you can. You can go out today and experience life as it is. Even if you have no job and no money.
Remember you are in charge of the creation process. So go out there and create. Let’s just say that suffering is at an end.

The universe doesn’t suffer, does it? The universe is everything we are, and we are everything it is. If it doesn’t suffer, why should we? It is just another idea put forward by religions to keep people enslaved to them. You and I are free. Let’s enjoy ourselves!


by alan macmillan orr

‘the natural mind – waking up’

2009

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