Look up a definition of Buddhist teachings and you’ll read about its emphasis on suffering. Enought already, you say; I’m looking for happiness, for ways out of what Zorba the Greek calls “the full catastrophe” of life. The beauty of Buddhist practice is that calls suffering by name (as pain, aversions, disappointment, loss, dislikes, preferences, etc.) and offers practical wisdom into its nature, cause, and remedies. No sugar coating but full-on reality with heaps of kindness. No wonder Buddhist practice has continued to thrive for over 2500 years.
There are four unavoidable physical sufferings; birth, old age, sickness and death – each with its variations. There are also three forms of mental suffering; separation from the people we love, contact with people we dislike, and frustration of desires.
If there’s one suggestion I offer to people who tell me of their woes, it is this: the way to end suffering begins with accepting it as a fact of life. “Welcome everything; push away nothing” Frank Ostaseski used to tell us.
Try it for yourself! Take an aspect or issue that’s been troubling, for which there seems to be no solution. Now sit with it: literally take a few moments and sit still. Recall the thing that bugs or hurts you and sense it in your body: emotions, sensations, and pains-in-the-neck. Then, just as an experiment, open your hands and gently hold the thing. You don’t have to like or agree with it, merely look at it.
Be aware of your expectations that all will be resolved in a moment’s magic … that can easily bring on new suffering. Instead, observe what happens inside of you–in your body more than your head–as you taste the possibility of accepting what’s happening. It won’t make it go away, it won’t make a wrong into a right, an injury into a beauty spot … but it may offer you a glimpse at happiness. Or it may not. If not this time, then the next time you sit with it, or the one after that. Keep in mind this natural law: everything changes, nothing stays the same.