Let’s start with what suffering is. Now, there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Even lawyers know this because when you go to court, you can sue for pain and suffering. It’s two different things.

Pain is what the nerves of the body feel. Suffering, on the other hand, comes from the mind. It’s a mentally created agony, misery, and hurt of the mind, imagined really. And we do it to ourselves unknowingly because of ignorance and illusion, primarily.

Even the Buddha said in the Four Noble Truths that life is dukkha, which is the word they use for suffering. But it’s more all-inclusive, so it’s not just mental agony, but also dissatisfaction and discontent. All of that ranks as suffering.

In Buddhism, they say enlightenment is a cessation of suffering. Within the Four Noble Truths, one of the primary things is that there is an end to suffering. There can be an end to suffering. The end of suffering comes from seeing through the illusions of the mind, dispelling ignorance. This is what frees us. Well, that’s not maybe quite right. It doesn’t free us per se because one of the illusions of the mind is the “me,” this personal “me” and all the stories. It’s the personal “me” and all the stories we create, which is the foundation of our suffering.

For example, if someone slaps you across the face, there’s the initial pain, but after that, there’s all this mental stuff that’s created. Why did they hit me? They shouldn’t have done that. How dare they? And it goes on and on, and we agonize over what happened. That’s where suffering comes in. It isn’t about the slap itself. Suffering is always about the past and future or pure imagination. Something happened, and we’re still mentally agonizing over it, or something may happen in the future, and we’re mentally agonizing over it. That’s the foundation of suffering.

So, the end of suffering, some pointers for it, would be to be present, being 100% devoted to the experience of now, not paying the mind any attention, not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future or imagining, just being now.

Another pointer to the end of suffering is to accept the certainties of life, to accept reality as it is. One of the main stressors is resistance to what is. Something is happening, and we’re resisting it. We start feeling this resistance, and stress and tension build. So, it’s about accepting what is as it is. One of the certainties of life to accept is that all is change, all is temporary, and everything will pass. We resist this. We don’t want things to pass. We want to keep things forever. But everything will pass, and we have little to no control over when or how things pass. And as long as we deny this, we suffer.

For example, if we get a new job, we might be momentarily happy. But then we start worrying. What if I lose my position? What if something happens where I get demoted or fired? What if a recession hits, and I lose my well-paying job? Constant worry, anxiety, guilt, shame—most of the negative emotions are basically forms of suffering we do to ourselves due to ignorance and illusions of the mind.

The illusions of the mind are built by the thoughts, concepts, and beliefs we have. And as long as they’re uninvestigated, we continue to suffer. However, there is a possibility, an invitation. The invitation is that if we really look at what we’re doing and what’s happening, we can understand what we’re doing. Fundamentally, no one hurts themselves on purpose. We don’t do things that are not in our best interests unless we think there’s a greater gain. But if we see that there is no gain and no point or advantage to hurting ourselves, we don’t hurt ourselves. Understanding brings this insight, and by seeing what we’re doing to ourselves, we may stop doing it because we just don’t see a point in it anymore.

So, I invite you to check into your own thoughts and suffering and look at how you’re doing it to yourself. Have hope.

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