Today's Daily Dharma looks at the concept of pain. I've seen this passage condensed into a nice pith saying: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Pain is inevitable
The First Noble Truth declares unflinchingly, straight out, that pain is inherent in life itself just because everything is changing. The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with wise and compassionate response. From this point of view, there’s a big difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable; lives come with pain. Suffering is not inevitable. If suffering is what happens when we struggle with experience because of our inability to accept it, then suffering is an optional extra.
I misunderstood this when I started my practice and believed if I meditated hard enough I would be finished with all pain. That turned out to be a big mistake. I was disappointed when I discovered the error and embarrassed that I had been so naïve. It’s obvious we are not going to finish with pain in this lifetime.
The Buddha said, “Everything dear to us causes pain.”…Those of us who have chosen relational life have made the choice that the pain is worth it.
-Sylvia Boorstein, It’s Easier Than You Think; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.