Softening Resistance to Suffering

Updated: Oct 9

Suffering has two common definitions I find.

One definition is the actual painful experience we have such as loss, injury, ill health etc which are extremely testing times. This is a common definition of suffering, that it is contrast or limiting experiences that shock us and stop us in our tracks.

The other definition of suffering is more indirect. It comes from the thoughts we focus our attention on.

The experience often seems pointless, would seem to have no value, to be meaningless, at first.

I find the value of suffering is that we discover a deeper clarity of who are truly are. To understand the meaning or reorganise, reset whatever aspect of our life is needing at these times.

So one definition of suffering is the actual experience such as a loss, injury, ill health etc, the actual contrasting or limiting experience itself. The actual loss, retrenchment, betrayal, robbery, etc itself is the suffering. “ I suffered a loss, injury…”. That event can be seen as positive, negative or neutral. Something good can come out of something that is or was otherwise. There is usually a mixture of perceptions and emotions.

This is not to say one way or another is more or less important, it is to say that there is usually more than one way calling for our attention, for our focus.

Perceptions can vary and all hold some degree of sense. And we know from our own experience that we folks can all see things, even the same things differently.

We have all had times when we saw something in one way and were very inclined in it, only to discover that there was not only one or many others that saw it differently and even felt twice as strongly about it as we did. And we may understand their rationale to a degree.

An actual experience/ the painful event itself will have pros and cons and it is where we focus that matters.

I remember my mother passing being a very shocking and painful experience even though she had lived a good long life. I had pros and cons, in the increased role in the family affairs for instance at a more senior level than I had previously experienced. I had lost my mother and the love of a mother, a true close mother, cannot be replaced. This many will agree.

There was healing and self care actions I took at the time to allow the experience of loss to pass, as well as the practical things to reorganise her affairs, which was separate from the narrative thinking about everything else.

So there is the event and then there is the thoughts and definitions that surround the event which leads to actions and different experiences all unfolding.

It is up to us to first allow the direction of thinking we wish to focus on. Having an intention about where we focus our attention.

The event itself can be read as more or less different things, in different ways, so finding a way to stay open to our intuition to be led from our true values helps.

Then there is suffering that arises not from the experience itself but from our thoughts and definitions about it. We think about who caused it, why it happened, how something could have been better, how it could have been avoided, how it hurts and the thinking goes on and on. This is what is now well known as the non stop thinking narrative of the physical egoic mind. It is a key part of my coaching program with my clients, where we come to become observers of this narrative allowing more intuitive thinking rather than the thinking exhausting overwhelm.

It is not that there is no need for thinking about the event. There is room for healthy inner inquiry and this is very helpful. At times, it is the best thing to sit with. Inner Inquiry is a practice of deep exploratory reflection that I find really helps clarity without toxicity. Inner inquiry about our painful experiences helps us flow rather than resist.

The unending narrative of the physical mind however creates resistance within us, resistance to the natural flow of consciousness. This narrative leaves no room for sharpness of focus, for us to come up with solutions, to take decisively in minimal time, to ease the pain.

Sometimes we feel we really need to think to take actions, which is the language that our physical reality operates in, as one of my mentors would say. We define not thinking in this narrative as dull or stagnant.

We can however take action based on our life affirming intentions to ease the pain without as much thinking. We would have experienced times that something happened and the solutions came together before we came up with a solution. Or we just got on with what was needed, changed bandage, made calls, got children from school, we just got on with what needed to happen and life continued. How we come to perceive the things we did when we just got on with it or the things when we just get on with, matters.

The non-stop narrative thinking and definitions do not really serve much purpose apart from resistance to the unrestricted flow of consciousness in the day to day.

This non narrative thinking is the resistance to the suffering (the event itself) which comes from the physical mind.

This suffering of the mind is optional I find. This thinking is different from the actual experience of pain or suffering, which happened in the past.

We can be going through a painful experience and hold different perceptions and contemplation of the experience and similar past experiences.

Some of our perceptions create resistance and some empower us to flow with more ease.