People are capable of suffering just about anything….. so, when we ask How Can I End Suffering, there are going to be a variety of answers. And the answers are also going to vary a lot depending on who is giving you advice.
For the most relevant advice, we could argue that we first need to determine the cause of our immediate suffering. And this makes sense if we want relief from a particular condition that is causing us stress at this moment.
For example, maybe we are suffering a little because we are hungry. The quick and easy solution is to go and eat something. Or if we are stressed because we have an exam coming up that we are ill-prepared for, doing more study until we know our subject well will in this case alleviate much of our suffering. However, as we all know, it’s not always that simple!
If we exclude sickness and physical pain from this discussion, all of our sufferings are the result of the way we are thinking about something. This becomes evident when we understand that it is the ‘emotional state’ we are experiencing that is causing us the torment. And because our emotions are a result of the thoughts we are thinking, it means that our suffering is being manufactured in our minds.
How Can I End My Suffering?
Because our suffering is a product of our minds (our thought processes) the way to end our suffering is also to be found in our minds. It is when we live in ignorance of how our magnificent minds work that we suffer. Therefore, if we can understand our minds better we will learn how to free ourselves from all unnecessary suffering.
Let’s first look at short-term solutions that will immediately begin to make our lives better.
Suffering is an intellectual process. As I mentioned, as people we are capable of suffering just about anything and everything…… This seems like a crazy concept, but if you think about it for a moment. you will find that it’s true.
Something happens or doesn’t happen, so we suffer. Someone says something to upset us or doesn’t behave as we want them to, so we suffer. Maybe our kids grow up and leave home to go to college, or just grow up and never leave home….. and depending on our thought processes, we can suffer greatly, a little, or not at all about either scenario.
We can suffer if our local restaurant has run out of our favorite dish, or if the shop has sold out of the latest gadget before we managed to buy one. What about if we think our boss will not be happy with the latest report we submitted, are we going to be anxious about the next meeting we have? Sure, why not…. This seems like another valid reason for us to suffer more distress, doesn’t it?
So many problems….. But what about the solutions?
What immediate actions can we take to relieve or end our suffering?
1) The most important thing we need to do is to accept that we are suffering. Because if we don’t accept it, and try and fight it, guess what? Yes, it adds more suffering on top of the amount we are already suffering…… not a good idea!
2) Realize that suffering is a natural consequence of being human. And again accept it as a natural part of life. When we see our child climb a tree and fall to the ground, sure, we feel it. We feel things that we wish we didn’t have to. And we also feel love for them as well as appreciation and joy because they are growing, learning, and developing themselves.
Our kids, as well as us, need to have all sorts of experiences (both the good and the bad) to learn how to function in this world. So, why not accept that sometimes we will suffer as it is a normal consequence of being alive.
Suffering is JUST ONE emotional reaction we have to stuff that is happening in our lives.
3) We can stop what we are doing and disengage our thoughts from what is causing us to suffer. Sitting or lying down, closing our eyes, and taking a few long slow deep breaths will center our energies back into our bodies. Becoming aware of our breath and our bodies totally removes us from the cause of our suffering (our thought processes) and gives us the space and time to regain a balanced perspective on whatever caused us to become stressed. Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga are powerful processes I highly recommend to help you regain a sense of peace and control in your lives.
4) Switch your attention to doing something creative. Again, this works as it disengages your suffering logical left brain and puts your focus into your right brain, or creative mind. When we are operating from the right side of our brains, we are using our imagination and creativity and dreaming of possibilities instead of logically trying to deal with our problems.
Because suffering is a direct result of the thoughts we are thinking, anything that changes the thoughts we are having is able to change our emotional state of being. The pursuit of creative outcomes is uplifting and freeing. So, why not dance, sing, play an instrument, paint, or do anything that brings you pleasure or joy.
5) Do some exercise that gets the heart pumping and the oxygen flowing through your body. Exercises that involve ‘crossing over’ both sides of our bodies are great as they will bring balance and peace to our busy minds. And they also divert our attention away from whatever is causing us to suffer.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
6) We could just decide to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and go out and do something to help someone else have a better day. Most of us feel better when we do something to help our fellow humans, animals, plants, or the earth herself. So, we can make a choice to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves, or go and help someone else….. and have the reward of feeling better ourselves at the same time. Choice: One person feeling down and out, or two or more people feeling better? Really there is no choice, it should be a no-brainer!
7) Be grateful and appreciative for all that you are and all that you have. Even with our suffering, life is not ALL bad. So tune your thoughts into the good things in your life. Did the sun come up this morning? Great. Maybe it was behind some rain clouds? Also great! Because without clouds, there is no rain, and we would not be able to grow all the delicious foods we consume to sustain our wonderful bodies.
So, I hope you are beginning to understand that: It’s not what happens that affects your level of happiness…. BUT IT’S WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING THAT DETERMINES IF YOU SUFFER OR NOT!
And this inevitably leads us to the next section……
Short-term, quick fixes are great, but there is a better way to end suffering?
Since our suffering (not the physical problems and sickness) is brought about by our thoughts, it means our suffering is only present when we are thinking thoughts that bring us down. Therefore it is temporary.
When our reality doesn’t fit our perspective of how we think things should be, when our beliefs, wishes, and expectations are not met, we have negative thoughts about it. These negative thoughts turn into negative emotions and the result is that we suffer. This is very important to understand because it means: We are suffering NOT because of the things that occur, but because of the way WE ARE THINKING about what has occurred!
Your thoughts are creating Your reality, including Your suffering! And what is the solution to this?
Since we are not able to change the rest of the world to suit our expectations and wishes, WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE ONLY THING WE HAVE ANY CONTROL OVER, AND THAT IS OUR THOUGHT PROCESSES.
What can I do to make my life better now?
If we are wise, we will understand and accept that periods of temporary suffering are necessary for our growth and development as individuals and for the communities we are part of.
However, if our suffering is overwhelming or consuming vast amounts of our time and energy, then we should seek help. Prolonged suffering or mental anguish is not normal and prohibits us from one of the main purposes of our lives…. Which is: Life is meant to be fun!
The reality is that we cannot experience/feel two different emotions at the same time…. And what we are feeling is a direct result of what we are thinking. SO, IF YOU ARE SUFFERING, IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE CHOOSING THOUGHTS THAT ARE BRINGING YOU DOWN.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT TO END YOUR SUFFERING, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS CHOOSE DIFFERENT THOUGHTS THAT WILL LIFT YOU UP?
And then with practice, we can train our minds to look for any positive aspects of our lives, at all times…. to lessen or end our suffering….
Meditation is the best tool available for learning to train our minds. So why not check out this FREE SAMPLE AUDIO from Inspire3 that helps us achieve deep meditative states quickly and easily?
To wrap it up:
To live a better, more fulfilling life, we must learn to embrace all aspects of life, including suffering. And if we can learn to suffer ‘well’ we will be rewarded with a greater appreciation for the moments of comfort and joy.
When we live in ignorance of why we are suffering, our lives remain filled with suffering….. However, it doesn’t have to be this way……
Once we realize that we are responsible for how often we suffer and the intensity with which we suffer, our suffering can take on a whole new meaning. We can turn it around and use it as a very useful tool that is full of opportunities for our personal growth and development.
Knowing that we are the manufacturers of our own suffering also gives us the remedy. By changing the way we are thinking, we can eliminate the need to suffer. And instead, we can focus on the upside of all events, circumstances, and people in our lives….. Ohhhhh, what a wonderful world that will be…..
Shared with love and respect for all souls that choose to play the game of life…. May you choose to live in joy.