It may be true that suffering is a part of life. It may even be true that we need a certain degree of suffering to help us grow into a compassionate human being. But one thing I know for sure, we can greatly reduce our suffering when we understand how the mind works and something that is called "the suffering of suffering"
"The Suffering of Suffering" is when we encounter suffering and then the mind itself behaves in such a way that compounds our suffering. In other words, your own thoughts take a situation of suffering and multiply it, significantly increasing the amount of suffering you experience.
Is that hard to believe? You probably think that you would never purposefully increase your own suffering, and that is true. You wouldn't purposely increase your own suffering. The suffering of suffering is such a habit that we don't even recognize it.
Let me give you an example;
Let's imagine that you walked into the corner of your coffee table and really hurt your leg. You hit it hard enough to bruise your leg and a lump will definitely form. You are in pain. You are suffering. This is suffering. But what is happening in the mind? This is where the suffering of suffering is forming. Other thoughts arise, such as;
"I never liked this stupid table. My mother gave me this ugly table. She doesn't know anything about my taste!"
(now you are feeling angry at your mother and feeling like she doesn't even take time to learn your tastes and style)
"I didn't want this table here. I wanted it closer to the sofa. It was my stupid roommate/partner that put it here. I never get my way."
(now you are angry and feeling like your opinion doesn't matter)
"I was just starting to recover from the injury to my hand last week and now I have another injury to deal with"
(You are feeling very sorry for yourself and are reinforcing your victimhood and the false belief that bad things always happen to you.)
There are MANY examples of how the mind compounds our suffering. Another example is that your bad mood from hurting your leg may cause you to lash out at someone. Now you have created tension and hurt in a relationship as well. And it compounds just like that. The mind goes racing into negativity, and NONE of that is going to help the situation. The fact remains that your leg is injured. Period. Wherever you place the blame or vent your anger, it won't change the fact that your leg is hurt.
We can reduce this suffering by recognizing the activity of the mind. The recognition will arise if we pause and observe. Before you react in anger, pause. Before you place blame, pause. Before you reinforce your status as a "victim", pause. Pause, breathe and observe your thoughts. Remember, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK. If an angry thought arises, acknowledge it, and let it pass by. Don't grab onto it, and don't react to it. Let your awareness rest on the flow of your breath and eventually those reactive thoughts will dissipate naturally without any struggle from your side. Stay focused on your breath and don't give any energy to negative thoughts that will create "the suffering of suffering"
This is the practice of meditation. It's just like that - observing the mind so that you NOTICE when an unsubdued thought arises and you PAUSE instead of reacting in your habitual ways. This is the practice. This is how to find greater freedom and how to reduce suffering in your life. Doing this practice for just a few moments a day is enough to bring about positive change in your mind. The more you practice, the better you get and the more you are creating a NEW habit in the mind.
Change doesn't come by wishing, but by making consistent effort. It's never too late to make a fresh start or to abandon habits that are no longer serving you. If you want more happiness and less suffering, make the decision to commit to regular meditation - whether that means once a day or once a week - slow progress is still progress. The hardest step in a new direction is often the first step.
Take that next step towards your freedom now. Life may always contain an element of suffering, but we have the power to greatly reduce the amount of suffering we experience by learning to work with the mind.
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