One of the key insights articulated by the Buddha (known as the First Noble Truth) is that to live involves suffering. This is neither morose nor pessimistic, but a fact. A fact we pleasure-seeking creatures would rather avoid. We’d rather believe that “all is good,” tell each other to “be happy,” and hope that “tomorrow is another day” and “this too shall pass.” Yes, to all of those — and yes, suffering is inevitable — and yes, the sun will shine again.
Reflecting on my everyday experience helps explain this seeming contradiction. Hardly a day goes by that I’m not in some physical discomfort, from mild aches to severe pain. Several fingers joints hurt, as do my knees, lower back, and neck. Tests point to rheumatoid arthritis and herniated discs. Not much I can do but to learn to live with them and reduce their impact with yoga, meditation, and keeping active.
But ever so often my mind goes to “poor me” and “this is not fair.” I don’t like what’s going on. It shouldn’t be this way. In short, life should be free of pain and hassle. Of course it isn’t and never will be. Fact: we have to endure sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and death. Fact: we have to cope with heartbreak, loss, grief, and separation from those we love. Fact: from time to time, we’ll be lonely, frustrated, hurt, disappointed, and enraged. Fact: No amount of “being good” or “living right” can guard us against the human condition.