A few years ago on a backpacking trip through Nepal, I discovered Buddhism for myself.
Once back in the UK, I made a point of going to retreats every now and then.
They are usually a few days long, consist of a group of people sitting on uncomfortable cushions, listening to a Lama, contemplating life. It was like an emotional detox and spiritual pick-me-up all at once.
Throughout lockdowns, I was yearning for another one of those.
Today was the first day of a one week retreat on the precious human life with my favourite lama, and we discussed the origin of suffering (spoiler, its ignorance).
Definition of ignorance:
the state or fact of being ignorant:
lack of knowledge, education, or awareness
There is our personal suffering, and there is the suffering of others.
The key is that we are suffering because we are unaware of how much others are suffering.
(I know this makes no sense, bear with me)
Everyone is trying their best, but we only know of our own backstory, excuses, hopes and dreams.
It’s easier to overlook our faults, and resent others for theirs.
Meditation isn’t about evoking nice feelings,
but about understanding our true nature.
We get caught up in negative feelings such as anger and worries for days, but then say we have no time for meditation which allows us to break free and become aware of this cycle.
As we meditate, we do not need to actively try to achieve anything.
When doing so, we become aware of the truth: on some level, we are making the choice to suffer.
We want to know how people truly feel about us, but then get mad when we don’t agree.
We resent our abusers, but keep harming ourselves by remembering the pain every day.
We are ignorant of how much of this pain is self-inflicted.
Suffering is not pointless.
It’s the glue that brings people together.
Through suffering, we can relate to each other and our pain.
Without suffering, we wouldn’t understand the consequences of hollow living such as living in addiction, living as if we never die or grow old or sick, hurting the ones who love us.
Without pain, we would never appreciate the good, just like there can be no light without the dark.
Once we understand that on the deepest level though, our ignorance is replaced by awareness, and we do not need to suffer anymore.
It takes a while and constant practice through meditation, but eventually, suffering becomes an active choice.