How Hard It Is to Accept What Is

SufferingHere’s where I eat humble pie.

You may have heard me talk about inevitable and optional suffering (Buddhist concept and extremely relevant to our life happiness).

So it goes like this: some suffering is unavoidable – someone dies, you break a bone, or you get fired from your job because your company is downsizing. Optional suffering is avoidable. It’s the sh*t we put on top – “this is terrible”,  “I can’t stand it”, and “why did this have to happen to me?”.

Basically, it’s the optional suffering that makes us truly unhappy. Because the other stuff just is. It’s the kind of stuff that happens to everybody. It’s a part of everyday life. Granted – it is sh*t but not as sh*t as optional suffering would have us believe.

If you look at it like this… if it were just sh*t and not the universe punishing us for something, or we weren’t fighting against it being how it is (double bad-feeling-whammy because then we also feel helpless because we can’t change what is), or we weren’t lamenting how awful it is, we could just get on and deal with the inevitable suffering.

We would have a lot more internal resources to manage the inevitable suffering because they wouldn’t be used elsewhere dealing with the suffering we choose to add on.

Sounds reasonable right?

Well, speaking from personal experience, it’s pretty bloody hard. I know that it’s easier not to fight against what is, not to add the “not fair”, “shouldn’t be this way”, etc etc. And yet, there are times where coming to an acceptance of what is, is really tough.

Sometimes it feels like not fighting against it is giving up rather than accepting. Sometimes it feels like accepting is saying the bad situation is ok and it’s ok if it continues. Sometimes accepting makes you feel powerless when you think you should be more in control of your life.

And these are just some of the reasons that giving up optional suffering is so hard. Trust me, I know!

So while I’m wrestling with my own optional suffering, I’m reminding myself of the things that I would be telling you. If you’re indulging in some optional suffering too then this might help you:

  • Nothing is permanent – every situation will and does change. You will not be here forever.
  • Accepting is not saying it’s ok – accepting is acknowledging you can’t change this right now. It doesn’t say you like it or approve of it or want it to continue.
  • Fighting for your equanimity (emotional balance) is a fight you’re more likely to win than fighting against what is. And you’ll feel better for it.
  • If you’re feeling powerless, then learn to sit with feeling powerless (that’s the inevitable suffering in many situations) rather than being angry (or however it comes out) to try to feel more in control.

So I hope that helps you – if not now then sometime in the future.

Thank you to you all for letting me learn through you.