“There is a way to suffer that is far more skillful than sheer endurance. More importantly, this “knowing how to suffer” is an important part of one’s spiritual growth. From my (probably incomplete) understanding of Thay’s teaching, there are 3 steps in suffering skillfully.
Step 1: Calm the mind.
Step 2: Cradle with tenderness.
Step 3: Cultivate compassion from this suffering.
If there is one word that summarizes all 3 steps, I think that word is “Love”. Love oneself enough to allow the space for oneself to suffer, without shame or judgement. In suffering, there is nothing to be ashamed of, there is no reason to hide, it’s just the natural experience of suffering, that’s all. Love oneself enough to allow the space and time to heal. Love oneself enough to cradle one’s own pain tenderly with kindness. And love all sentient being enough to want to cultivate compassion.”
My two cents
School teachers don’t teach you how to suffer. Many people find the word “suffer” to be embarrassing, something that you should not speak of when possible, and avoid like the plague. There is a Chinese saying that goes like ” if a medicine tastes bitter, take it, because it’s good for you.” A lot of the times you’ll need to suffer, because it’ll do you good; you could learn things otherwise you couldn’t.
Suffering is a welcoming topic in neither popular media nor small talk. You might have already seen on TV shows or movies how people wake up to find themselves given a new identity, and they begin a new, glamorous and successful life. You see singers, dancers or actors talking about all the fun they had, but you almost never hear them talking about the sweat and blood behind the scenes. Why not? Because people don’t like the idea of suffering; they’d rather prefer to see instant success, and woo and wow for the stars.
I choose not to connect this blog to facebook, because people on facebook are there to enjoy pretty pictures and funny stories, not a full-length article of “oh-you-know-you-look-like-you’d-better-suffer-a-little”. But it’s important for me to reflect and share this with people, so here I am.