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Mindful : June 2017
Suffering is not being able to connect with our children. It’s our anxiety about what will happen at work tomorrow. Suffering is know- ing your roof will leak in the next rainstorm. It’s finally buying that shiny new smartphone, then seeing an advertisement for an even newer device with incremental improvements. Hoping your company will get rid of your grumpy boss who still has a year to go before his retirement. Thinking that life is moving by too fast or too slow. Not getting what you want, getting what you don’t want, or getting what you want but fearing you will lose it—all of this is suffering. Sickness is suffering, old age is suf- fering, and so is dying. We think we need the conditions of our lives to reliably give us what we want. We want to construct an ideal future or nostalgically relive a perfect past. We mistakenly believe this will make us happy. But we all can see that even those people who realize extraordinary con- ditions in life still suffer. Even if we are rich, beautiful, smart, in perfect health, and blessed with wonderful families and friendships, in time these will break down, be destroyed, and change...or we will simply lose interest. On some level, we know this is the case, yet we can’t seem to stop grasping for those “perfect” conditions. Opening to pain in the present moment, we may be able to do something to improve the situation. Or maybe not. But we can certainly notice how our attitudes toward the experience are impacting what is happening. My reaction to pain, even to the thought of pain, changes everything. It can increase or decrease my suf- fering. I have always liked the formula: Pain + Resistance = Suffering If we attempt to push away our pain, whether it is physical or emotional, we almost always find ourselves suffering even more. When we open to suffering, inquiring into it instead of trying to deny it, we see how we might make use of it in our lives. Even in the Deepest Tragedy Years ago, Janet was enjoying a backyard BBQ with her husband, their good friend Albert, and their families. Looking around, she couldn’t see her three-and-a -half-year-old son, Jack, or Albert’s son, Daniel, in the yard. Concerned, she said that she was going to check on the boys. But her husband and Albert called her back, saying, insight