Why do we suffer? Why do we have pain? Is there a difference? Everyday I experience my own suffering, as well as listen to the sufferings of others. I also experience pain, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual is dependent on the circumstance. So what is the difference between them. I believe the difference is in the acceptance of the pain (i.e. emotion, fear, challenge, weakness, etc). Simply put, pain without acceptance of the pain equals suffering.
I worked with a man at one time, who was suffering with major gun shot wounds in an armed robbery. The consequences of the wounds created severe impairment and lack of mobility. It was devastating. This person was in severe pain (in many ways), but he was suffering more. He explained how tired he was and continuously questioned "why did this have to happen?" He often exerted that he wished he could be back to his old self. I listened to his heartache, and then calmly offered a question. "Have you noticed that the moments you experience the greatest calm are the moments when you have talked about your injury with acceptance?" He made significant changes after that.
Emotions aren't good and bad, they just are. They inform us of things going on. So often we fight them, try to change them, swallow them, disguise them, hide them, and act like they don't exist. This, my friends, is exhausting. It is suffering. It is experiencing discomfort and trying to make the discomfort comfortable. In my experience, this only creates more discomfort. Much like the buckets analogy discussed last week, we begin focusing our attention on our pain rather than the acceptance of the pain, thus leading to suffering.
Duh statement...We need to learn to accept. What does this mean and how do you do this? When we first experience a pain/discomfort/emotion, we stop. Literally, we stop and do nothing. This gives us a second to just acknowledge what it is that is going on, without reacting to it. What I find works well is to try and explain to myself as if I were telling someone else what I was experiencing. I don't change it, I acknowledge it, ponder it, ask what it might be about, and then continue to focus on my goal, even if the pain continues. This allows me to stay focused on what I want, rather than focusing on what I don't want. Am I good at this...No...does it work...yes.