Pain, but not Suffering

Our book group is studying  “Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness” by Sharon Salzberg. In the first chapter she offers this wonderful explanation of how we can experience the pain of life without suffering. She says:

“The basis of the Buddha’s psychological teaching is that our efforts to control what is inherently uncontrollable cannot yield the security, safety, and happiness we seek. By engaging in a delusive quest for happiness, we only bring suffering upon ourselves. In our frantic search for something to quench our thirst, we overlook the water all around us and drive ourselves into exile from our own lives. We may look for that which is stable, unchanging, and safe, but awareness teaches us that such a search cannot succeed. Everything in life changes. The path to true happiness is one of integrating and fully accepting all aspects of our experience. This integration is represented in the Taoist symbol of yin/yang, a circle which is half dark and half light. In the midst of the dark area is a spot of light, and in the midst of the light area is a spot of darkness. Even in the depths of darkness, the light is implicit. Even in the heart of light, the dark is understood, acknowledged, and absorbed. If things are not going well for us in life and we are suffering, we are not defeated by the pain or closed off to the light. If things are going well and we are happy, we are not defensively trying to deny the possibility of suffering. This unity, this integration, comes from deeply accepting darkness and light, and therefore being able to be in both simultaneously.

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