Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

March 23, 2016      Comments Off on Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

There’s a depth of meaning under the surface of these words.  Take a moment to explore this concept mindfully; it can lead to a simple insight that brings the potential for profound inner peace.

The first phrase, “Pain is inevitable,” describes the reality of life as we know it. The second, “Suffering is optional,” offers the possibility of understanding that our own interpretation of events can change… everything!

Pain is inevitable. Stuff happens. There may be events  that wreak havoc in our lives. We or our loved ones get sick. Dreams that seemed to be within reach – for complicated reasons or for no reason at all – prove to be beyond our grasp.  Accidents… errors… mistakes… things can change in an instant.

The challenge of a lifetime is how to handle this as mindfully, skillfully, and compassionately as possible.

Pondering the paradox, “ Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” we can begin to understand that there’s a moment of choice in how we handle the loss, the lack, the difference from “what is” to “what we had wanted or hoped.”

That moment offers the opportunity to be mindful… To hold “what is” gently, without judgment.

Instead of suffering because we didn’t get what we wanted, we can choose to be present fully – mindfully – in each moment with what we have.  Being present mindfully invites us to recognize, explore, understand, and be present with what is. Quite simply, to let ourselves feel joy even as we experience pain. As Indian sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj has noted so profoundly – whatever we perceive blissfully is perceived to be beautiful.

Instead of rejecting reality when it falls short of our desires and expectations, we can learn to hold it gently. When we understand that the mind will begin to create drama (because that’s what minds do) and that the drama creates suffering, we begin to recognize that “Suffering truly is optional.”  And when we understand that, the world opens up. In each moment, we have a choice!

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