I feel I have titled a post this way before? And it would not surprise me as I have delved deeply into this topic many times throughout my life as an adult. Is there an art to suffering, or is it simply a case of those who live an earthly existence must suffer on some level so we may as well accept it and try to be gracious in our suffering?
In my late teens and early twenties I started reading about Buddhism and came across, as everyone who has ever read anything on Buddhism most likely will know, the 4 noble truths, of which are…
- The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
- The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
- The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
- The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
Back then I thought it all very morbid, but also had a faint fascination with the concepts as I too was already experiencing a level of suffering that I could not get my head around. I remember thinking ‘ok, so others feel this way, it’s not just me’. And I left it at that. As I continued to suffer through my twenties the teaching stayed with me, but never really offering much comfort. I then had my daughter at 29 and rediscovered a whole new level of suffering, the fears that come with parenting and having the responsibility of keeping a human being alive, and I began to open up to those around me. Through doing this I learnt I was not alone in my fears, I was not alone in my anxieties and occasional down day. Again the teachings returned, I am not alone in this suffering.
Forward on 5 years to the trauma of loosing my Dad and I swear I would have broken down and lost myself completely had I not taken refuge and comfort in others suffering. To some of you, perhaps who have not experienced deep suffering, you may find this strange and again a little morbid, but stay with me. I sought out others stories who had been through similar tragedies, cried my heart out, and felt a little lighter. I began to crave hearing of others pain, and all the suffering we go through as human beings, felt a kind of kindred spirit in these people’s hurt and devastation, and this gave me a strength to carry on through my own. I would listen to people who have lived through the most horrific of what life can bring, and survived, and I would think if they can get through that, I can get through this. This gave me such hope in human beings, it lifted my soul in a way that is unexplainable, it reminded me that I am never alone in my suffering because the truth of life is that of suffering.
And now….and now I still honour others suffering and whenever I am having a bad day I either reach out and say I am having a bad day, or I reach out and find strength from other peoples bad days. I choose not to watch the news as this is a whole other level of suffering and I don’t wish to surround myself in this, but rather have interest in individual human stories, real life events. This reminds me regularly that no one person, if they are lucky to live long enough, gets to avoid suffering in this lifetime. The simple fact that everyone dies is enough to bring about a whole world of pain, but add to that the whole plethora of human emotion and experience and we have unlimited suffering at our fingertips. I no longer see this as morbid, but rather a beautiful part of existence which is unavoidable if we are to live a full life surrounded by love.