Understanding Suffering

42 Relax and Succeed - OptimistEveryone’s trying to be happier. Nothing wrong with that. Except when they’re not happy they perceive they are failing, which causes them to make it worse by adding negativity to their unhappiness. If sadness or anger or frustration were failing, then why do you volunteer to sit through television shows to experience those very emotions? You’ve proven to yourself that those experiences aren’t bad. They aren’t good either. They simply are experiences you’re capable of. Just like the TV can experience a comedy, and yet on another channel a drama is playing, on another a horror, and on and on.

For you to have choice in your experiences, those experiences must vary enough to make that choice both meaningful and discernible. There are some experiences you find more compelling than others. You would rather be laughing with a friend than having an argument with your spouse. But the only reason you know that is because you’ve experienced both and you can compare them within you. Can you see how the two experiences need each other? That one cannot exist without the other? It’s like these words you’re reading right now. You think the letters are what’s important. But without the white background, these letters wouldn’t exist. They’re in fact equal in value. There’s a duality there.

Imagine Oneness. A Wave is one thing and yet it is made of two parts; a crest and a trough. And despite the fact that these two separate parts exist, I cannot divide them; they are each inextricably tied together in the Oneness of the Wave. So it is with your life. There is no way to have all happiness. That would in fact also be an absence of happiness. This is the Yin and Yang of life.

Relax and Succeed - I am grateful for the darknessYou aren’t failing or wrong or lost if you’re upset occasionally. Those experiences are on the Path as well. And be grateful for them, because they’re what’s creating the contrast that allows you to find your way. Your happiness is defined by your unhappiness. It is the background to the letters in your story of happiness.

The curious result of understanding this is that you can then enjoy your unhappiness as an aspect of your happiness. Which is why the Buddha taught that the acceptance that there will always be suffering is, in another way, the end of suffering.

Do not battle the feelings you do not enjoy. That will only make them stay longer. Just keep in mind that without the darkness you cannot move toward the light.

Enjoy your day. And when you don’t. Enjoy that too. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

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