Suffering is inevitable. We are always going to encounter it. There is no way around it, no way to fight it, it will happen whether we like it or not. Suffering can be extreme and come in the form of a physical impairment like breaking a limb or an emotional pain like the loss of a loved one. But suffering can creep up on us in even more discrete and insidious ways. Suffering includes the minor but constant stressful moments in our lives. Yes, the dreaded “S” word- STRESS. We all experience stress, most of us every single day, but I bet you didn’t think it could actually be suffering, did you?
Stress IS suffering and we encounter it all the time. When you’re late for work and racing up the highway ramp to see a traffic jam with no end in sight and you want to scream at the top of your lungs, that is suffering. You reach in your pocket to pull out that 20 dollar bill only to discover a handful of lint and a mint from dinner the night before. You were sure it was in there and the thought of losing money drives you crazy, that’s suffering. You wait patiently by your phone hoping desperately to hear it ring only to realize hours later that she’s never going to call and are alone again on a Saturday night, that’s suffering. It’s when you have a successful job interview only to be told that the position was given to someone with better qualifications or more work experience. It’s a broken nail, a stubbed toe, a glob of bird poop on your freshly washed car, overdue paperwork, missed deadlines, or a fight with your spouse. Suffering is everywhere, big and small. Some suffering causes us more pain but ultimately suffering is always the same. It is the way we relate to it, the way we perceive it, that changes. How we view suffering and how we manage it that makes all the difference.
A lot of you would probably consider these little examples of suffering to be minor annoyances, things that everyone experiences and there’s really no way around it. You’re right, there is no way around it, but have you ever wondered how these consistent, little inconveniences affect you? There are huge physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural ramifications of suffering and if you're not aware of it, it can cause more harm than you thought.
Stay tuned for my next blog entry where I will go deeper into the side effects of suffering and ways you can overcome it.
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