The Art of Suffering

The Art of Suffering

You may have noticed that our world is filled with suffering.

The Buddha noticed this, too. His first teaching was that suffering exists. While it’s easy to see suffering ‘out there,’ the Buddha challenged us to see suffering ‘in here’ and know that each of us is a real mess; our minds are neighborhoods best not entered alone.

This week’s Dharma talk suggests a three-step plan for coping with suffering so that, rather than being oppressed by life’s inevitable hardships, we use them to fuel our transformation:

Naming: The first step is to know that we’re suffering (which is often not obvious.) We look to our bodies and name the physical sensations (tightness in the shoulders, twisting gut) rather than rely on the mind’s labels (anger, frustration.) The mind habitually blames something ‘outside,’ while the body reports the truth of the present moment.

Allowing: Once we recognize what’s happening, we allow our suffering to be there. This feels counterintuitive because our ego structure marshals a host of habitual coping mechanisms to hide internal suffering from ourselves and others. Allowing has two aspects: Not indulging our coping mechanisms, and turning towards suffering with curiosity and patience.

Embracing: Allowing, by itself, isn’t enough. We must invite loving kindness to hold our suffering in it’s gentle, non-judgmental arms. This loving response to suffering is awakening itself.

As poet John O’Donohue wrote: The most powerful way to change your life is to change your mind. For those who follow the Zen path, we transform our suffering minds by naming, allowing, and embracing.

Enjoy the Dharma talk! You may listen to it on our Podcast page by clicking HERE.

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