Buddha said, 'Life is suffering.' I've lived long enough to notice that he was right. I've also lived long enough to notice that no one believes it. However, through my life experience, I have developed another way to look at suffering. I think Buddha (or his scribes) made it much too complicated'it's really quite simple.
As I observe myself and others, it's quite evident that we have created our lives to avoid suffering. There are many ways to relieve/postpone/disguise the suffering. Drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes, adventures, meditation, hate, anger and even love and marriage are very prevalent methods. So all keep us from the basic truth: 'Life is suffering.' Several times when I was tired or sick with no one to help me, I remember saying to myself, 'This is why people stay married, they will never have to feel the lonely desolation I am feeling right now.' And I was willing to feel the anguish of the helplessness. I've always figured, you won't get the highs if you don't take the lows.
This week I took it as a project to see how many times I found my mind and body racing away to some pleasurable experience. What were they running from? They were running from a basic feeling of suffering, in a greater or less degree. What happens when I agree just to feel the suffering that was being given to me? Aside from the expansion resulting from acceptance of 'what is,' this week I experienced a short-term benefit too.
At a public hearing, I presented facts and figures concerning pollution in my community that I had been preparing for two years. Next day I woke up with a raging fever and chest cold. I needed a rest, so I took the folk advice that fever is good for you'it'll burn up the virus or bacteria. Last night I literally suffered from the heat of my own body and was drenched for hours. I could have gotten up and relieved the heat with a shower or with a fan, but I burned through it and let it be. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and the fever was gone.
I can distinctly remember an incident when I was about eight years old, I had the thought, When I am 12, everything is going to be perfect for me. I was actually hoping, I'm suffering now, but I won't have to when I am older. Well, that was a joke, yet I think I still innately have that thinking pattern to some extent. Often unconsciously my motivation is the same. 'When I do this, everything will be perfect.' 'If I do that, everything will be perfect.' Obviously, when I am in that mode of thinking, I never have a chance to realize the perfection in the here and now.
However, sometimes the universe speaks to us loud and clear. Yesterday, in spite of feeling so lousy, I had to pick up some groceries. I walked by a car with a bumper sticker that said, 'An angel is watching over me.' Thinking of the success of the environmental hearing, I said to myself, The whole heavens must be watching over me. Just as I had that thought I looked up and saw a huge rainbow in the sky. I have not seen a rainbow for years. As a matter of fact, I was lamenting recently, 'Where are all the rainbows?'
So suffering is just suffering; it's neither more nor less. If I accept suffering, I experience a broader, more complete spectrum of life that allows me to accept myself and others more. I see everything is perfect'just like I wanted it to be!