Pain Is Not Suffering
I posted this as a meme on Facebook from Teal Swan: “The circumstances you are experiencing are not the cause of your suffering. The cause of your suffering is the thought that what is happening should not be happening, or is not supposed to be happening.”
It’s an expansion on the old Buddhist saying I heard in yoga class frequently: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
The Facebook post got several comments mainly about physical pain. One friend wrote, “Well, then, whoever wrote that was never severely burned in a car accident.” Another wrote, “I really resent those who say you can control everything with your thoughts. You can control some things, but we live in a physical world.” Still another commented, “They’re talking about emotional pain, not physical pain, right?”
In all cases, the people completely missed the message of the meme. It was not saying that your thoughts caused the pain. It says that your thoughts about the pain and/or its causation is causing the suffering.
In my own case, in the past, for several years, I had debilitating lower lumbar disc inflammations that would put me in bed sometimes because I could not move without extreme pain in my back and down both legs. I suffered greatly because I kept judging how unfair it was, and why me, an active, professional musician who ate right, exercised, took good care of himself should be burdened with this disability. Sometimes I cried. Not so much because of the pain, but because of the circumstances of it–and the situation I was in because of it.
I finally just decided to stop suffering and do something about my condition. I began yoga classes, and within a year, my back was completely healed. Yes, it was very difficult to do the yoga, and there was a lot of pain along the way, but I was convinced that it would work, and I had the drive and determination to get out of pain. This is the remedy for suffering: change the circumstances. Do something different. Get out ahead of the situation. Allow the pain, allow all the inconvenience, all the grouchy thoughts and emotions, and just soldier on.
Anyone who has a serious disability, for example, Stephen Hawking, absolutely could not be in suffering and do the things he’s done. Sure, he’s probably in a lot of pain, but his vision, will, and determination to live his life cancels out what could be certainly the best of reasons to suffer.
What Hawking has done, and anyone overcoming any sort of painful disability, is to focus on what is working; the things in life to be grateful for, because that’s where the energy is. That’s where the inspiration lies, and that’s where LIFE is. Life is not in the suffering, because suffering is a mental construct of victim behavior. It defeats hope, it neutralizes motivation, and rips the color right out of life and living.
So above all, my friends, gratitude trumps suffering, and will certainly lead to ease, joy and a zest for life.
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