Suffering is everywhere — from people in wartorn countries to children dying of starvation to being in lockdown during this pandemic. It’s painful, it’s raw, it’s fuzzy… Sadly, it’s a condition that has taken hold of the human experience. And what’s even more unfortunate is that the cause of your suffering… is you.
What Is Suffering?
By definition, suffering is the state of going through pain, distress, or hardship. It’s not only in war or poverty when we experience this condition, but in any circumstances.
When it’s applied to real-life situations, suffering can sound like:
- “It’s no use, I can’t do that.”
- “They’ll all just laugh at me.”
- “What’s the point?”
As Sadhguru, renowned yogi and author of Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, puts it: suffering is “a thought in your head or an emotion within you [that] determines the nature of your experience right now.”
Simply put, it’s the name you give to describe your negative reflections and sucky emotional circumstances.
Why Do We Suffer?
Suffering is not inevitable. “People are capable of suffering just about anything,” explains Sadhguru. They’re suffering when they’re well or when they’re ill, when they’re lonely or when they’re together, when they’re wealthy or in poverty, and even when they’re in comfort or in discomfort.
So obviously, people are creating suffering.
The Buddha famously said, “the root of suffering is attachment.” And with every experience you have in life (whether it be a relationship or to the things we buy), you attach a meaning to it. For example:
- Someone cut you off on the road — he’s an asshole.
- Your little girl’s throwing a tantrum — she’s bad.
- A telemarketer called in the middle of your meeting — he must be stupid.
“Meaning is what we think we know for sure from any event or series of events,” explains Morty Lefkoe, creator of The Lefkoe Method, in his TEDx Talk on how to stop suffering. “In fact, what we think of as meaning is just one point of view, on arbitrary interpretation that we add to an event.”
The reality is there are many meanings to any given event. But the ones you know are the ones that exist in your minds. And your mind explains these meanings with emotions — be it good, bad, sucky, awesome, and what have you.
Like, the guy that cut you off is probably not an asshole. He might be in a rush to the hospital where his pregnant wife is giving birth. Or your little girl isn’t bad but is just hangry. Or the telemarketer isn’t stupid, but he’s just trying to earn a living to support his family.
The basis of goodness and what you think is goodness is decided by you.— Sadhguru, yogi, humanitarian, and author of Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy
Morty explains that when you attribute meaning, it causes upset and suffering in almost every area of your life. And with more Americans reported to be more unhappy now than they’ve been in nearly 50 years, it might just be time to flip the script on the meanings we give to our circumstances.
How Do You Stop Your Suffering?
“If you can create suffering, you can also create something else, isn’t it?” says Sadhguru.
In short, it’s about your mindset.
If you allow your mind to give meaning to your experiences, you may cause yourself suffering. But when you allow your mind to dissolve that meaning, you’re able to overcome suffering.
Let’s go back to the guy who cut you off on the road. Tell yourself he’s not an asshole and that perhaps, he’s late to his child’s birth… or he suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and really needs to drop a deuce… or he just didn’t see you there… Then, your anger and all the suffering that comes with it stops.
If you can create something for one moment, so you’re able to create a certain sense of freedom from suffering for one moment… If you create one moment, can’t you create one more moment? Can’t you create one more? One more and one more? That’s the way you create your life.— Sadhguru, yogi, humanitarian, and author of Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy
Taking a note from the yogi, if you can master making your moments blissful and you can live blissfully. Namaste, Sadhguru. Namaste.
What’s the difference between dissolving the meaning and suppressing your feelings?
Suppressing your feelings is when you ignore them or push them aside. It keeps you from acknowledging that you actually feel something.
For instance, when the guy cuts you off on the road, you may feel rage. Suppressing that rage may mean that you’re pushing the feeling aside, but that emotion of anger is still there. And it’ll still be there until you address it.
On the other hand, when you dissolve the meaning, you’re also putting to bed the feeling attached to the meaning. Like, you tell yourself that the guy had to really pee and you know how that feels, so you give him a pass. The meaning dissolves, the feeling disappears, and there’s nothing left to suppress.
The bottom line is that dissolving the meaning involves changing your mindset. It takes your suffering and allows you to turn it into a moment of growth.
Awaken Your Power
Suffering, especially that on a daily basis, is not part of human nature, despite what people think.
So don’t believe for a second that you are your suffering. There are ways you can always change the status quo of society’s “brules,” transcend your beliefs and become a better version of yourself.
When you take your suffering and figure out the stand it’s going to give you and how to put it into your life mission, the suffering disappears.— Vishen, founder and CEO of Mindvalley
And when your suffering disappears, that’s when joy appears. “If you’ve been joyful for one moment, that means you’re capable of joy,” explains Sadhguru. “It is just that you’re unable to stay there.”
But it’s possible to learn how to maintain a state of joy. You just need guidance. And Mindvalley’s free masterclass with Sadhguru himself is the perfect place to start.