When we feel a headache or other physical pain, most of us reach for some sort of analgesic to relieve it. When we feel the inevitable pains of grief, separation, betrayal, heartbreak, loneliness, or sadness we might wish there was a similar pill to alleviate it.
Some people believe that chemical drugs will help them get through such emotional pain. Others think that distraction or denial will end the agony. In the end, we know that drugs and denial only increase suffering.
Sooner or later, we learn that pain and suffering are often necessary in life. If there are no challenges, we won’t truly learn. I’m not thinking about the dire pain that people feel when they are immersed in poverty or disease; that type of pain and suffering are not necessary nor helpful for a fulfilling life. I’m thinking about the pain that is felt in average day to day existence. Just living a life means we will encounter the challenges of betrayal, loss, loneliness, sacrifice, or other unhappy situations.
There are no easy shortcuts, convenient techniques, nor smarmy platitudes to get us past these pains. We eventually discover that accepting our setbacks and obstacles at face value enables us to begin to take them on, headfirst. In doing this we must resist the temptation of becoming absorbed in the emotional comfort of having a big problem. Honestly and intentionally facing our suffering does not mean indulging in self-pity nor fishing for sympathy. Accepting the loss and purposely moving forward with life is what will give us strength and peace.
This is not to say that we can hurry the progress. We can feel the loss and pain as we leave the past behind and focus on putting together the leftover pieces to build a more satisfying life. In the process of acknowledging and letting go of the past, we can be open to discovering and exploring new opportunities.
Sometimes we unknowingly have been the cause of grief and suffering. If that is so, we must remember to never fear making an apology. If one knows, deep inside, that oneself has transgressed expressing sincere regret will begin the healing process of the person who was hurt. Even though the act of apology will also make oneself feel better, this should not be the motivating factor. Saying one is sorry does not absolve anyone of blame for doing wrong.
Saying one is sorry is accepting the lesson and will refrain from repeating the wrong-doing again. We should never fear saying we’re sorry. We can take past transgressions as lessons to think carefully before speaking and acting so as to have fewer regrets.
The truth is that our world is filled with suffering. There is no escape from birth and death, sickness and decrepitude. We have inbred cravings to continue living and gratification of our passions. There are ways to accept the suffering and go through it to live a more full life.
It helps to keep free of so-called easy solutions like delusion, superstition, and prejudicial views. We can turn away from the temptations of revenge and harming other beings. A person can cultivate the habit of kind, courteous speech and refraining from gossip and mindless chit chat.
We can remember to act only in benevolent, compassionate, peaceful ways. We can make our way through life in ways that do not result in unhappy consequences for anyone and anything. We can do this by directing our efforts away from selfishness and ignorance.
We can practice mindfulness in a true way, not as just a modern fad. This mindfulness includes wholesome thoughts and paying attention to our intentions. We can make this into a meditation.
Thinking and acting with thoughtfulness and awareness ultimately helps relieve the pain of others and oneself.