Suffering is Optional

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional….. inspiring words by the Lord Buddha aren’t they?

But what the hell does he mean suffering is optional…. we all get the pain is inevitable part, that’s just part and parcel of the human existence, but to suffer OPTIONAL, surely he had rocks in his head!

Did he?

How many things do you beat yourself up over  with refrains like  “ if only I had…..” or “ I really should do…..” or “If I hadn’t ……. then X wouldn’t have happened.”

We do not have to have those conversations with ourselves, nobody forces us to, nobody says we have to, so why do we?

If  in our heads we are having the conversations “if only I had or if only I hadn’t then…” where are we focusing…. on the past. Can we change the past? NO.

When we are having the ” I really should…” conversation in our heads where are we focusing….. on the future! but are we focusing on actually getting done what needs doing? NO. Can we control the future? NO.

But when we engage in each of these conversations what are we doing? We are causing ourselves to suffer, not because we HAVE to, but because we are choosing to, so the suffering IS optional.

There are many things that happen to people in life that are tragic, and do cause immense physical pain and suffering to people. My sons accident, disability and ongoing problems associated with them are such examples  (see these articles for background…. how did I get here,   real men can, and should, cry ).

If  could there are many things I would change about what happened, but I cannot. If I could I would take away his pain and suffering, but I cannot. If I could I would prevent the future pain and suffering that he will experience, but I cannot.

There are a few words that I use to constantly remind myself about this. The words are ” it is what it is “.

I am not being trite and telling you that positive thinking will solve all of our problems. The reality is coming to the acceptance that ” it is what it is ” is difficult. Stopping yourself from unnecessary suffering is difficult.

There are days when life is tough, and circumstances can and will overwhelm. There are days when we will feel like shit, but those words “it is what it is” are also a comfort on those days, to acknowledge the feeling and not let the “what if”, “if only” conversations start in our heads. We may need to sit with those feelings of being down etc, but we do not need to let them cause us to suffer.

There is only one point in time and space that you and I can control, and that is right here, right now. We can choose to do what is necessary instead of thinking I should….. We can me mindful of the “if only”  thoughts we are having and stop our attachment to the past by acknowledging that it is what is and letting go of it. WE CAN choose not to suffer unnecessarily.

IT IS WHAT IT IS……….. what are you going to do differently to stop the optional suffering?

Image in this post by FranUlloa @ flickr