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Pain vs. Suffering

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

To live each day as happy and peacefully as possible is actually quite simple. Not easy, but simple.

Before I explain how, I need to define how I think of pain vs. suffering.

Pain is felt the moment something hurts you either physically or emotionally. For example, this week I split my thumb nail when I banged it opening a kitchen cabinet while making pancakes. It hurt like crazy when I did it and continues to hurt as it heals. Pain can also be an emotional response. An example is when I sit next to my boss and he tries to explain something to me for the third time that I still don’t understand and I feel utterly stupid. Pain is something you feel in the moment.

Suffering is the all activity leading up to and/or after the pain incident. I went to the dentist recently and created a lot of suffering for myself before the appointment thinking about the pain of the shot of Novocain. Before I have meetings with my manger, I create suffering by anticipating me not being able to follow what he is talking about and feeling clueless.

Pain is real, suffering we create.

The way to invite more peace into your life is to reduce the amount of suffering.

The best way to reduce suffering is to live mindfully, which means living moment to moment totally in the present. When you live in the present moment, you are safe from ruminating on past experiences and fearing the future. The current moment is safe. The current moment has peace. There is an unlimited amount of peace inside us that is just waiting for us to enjoy, except our busy minds keep us from experiencing it. Much of Buddhism philosophy talks about human suffering in this way. And all of those Buddhist monks can’t be wrong!

I have found that the quickest way to bring yourself into the present moment is to use your sense of hearing.

Next time you find yourself absorbed in your thoughts and they are creating suffering for you, stop and listen to your surroundings. What do you hear? If you are in the kitchen, do you hear the refrigerator running? If you are outside can you hear any birds? If you are at work, can you hear someone talking on the phone? If it is totally quiet, listen to the beautiful silence in your head that is always there for you to enjoy when you aren’t thinking.

You can’t be focused on an outside sound (or the quiet in your head) and consumed by thought at the same time. As soon as you stop your thinking and listen for sound, you awake to mindfulness. After you notice whatever sound you hear, pause and take a deep conscious breath then bring your attention to your breath. Just one breath is all it takes. While you take the breath think the word, peace.

The author of the book Silence says, "Silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us." Thich Nhat Hanh.

Imagine an expansive place deep inside of you that is absolutely peaceful, filled with only love. Each time you quiet the mind, you open yourself up to that place.

If you would like to hear more about this please send me an email at

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