Thursday, June 26, 2008

Suffering is Joy

What most of us identify as suffering is actually resistance to suffering.

That is to say, you have a concept of what the pain or worst-case scenario is going to be like, and then live in anticipation or anxiety of it. Our minds create meaning, reasons, and back-story for the problem. We find culprits to blame, circumstances by which we are trapped, and rationalizations about the turn our lives have taken. Over time, those ideas become so closely associated with the actual sensation of pain or suffering that we think we are suffering, when we are actually thinking about suffering.

To help sustain that illusion of suffering, our bodies distort into a specific shape, tone, and posture. No emotion or situation can be maintained by thought alone. The experience persists because you learn to "do" the sensations and strategies that create that feeling. How do we "do" a state of mind or experience? Our nervous system runs specific pathways, our large and small muscles fire, and we move our breath and energy in particular patterns. So it feels like we're suffering, but really we are doing the emotions we have about suffering.

This is not to say that true suffering is easy, comfortable, or without significant charge. On the contrary, every experience of our authentic self is rich with sensation, emotion, and thought. But the nature of this richness is quite different from that of resisting, thinking, or doing suffering. When you allow the suffering, you free yourself from it, and from the fear and stories about it. True suffering, when fully experienced, is joy.

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