Spiritual Essays #17

Dealing With Unnecessary Suffering

by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay is about how we create unnecessary suffering by our thinking, behavior and actions which is avoidable, and how we may overcome it.


Suffering is inherent in life. Who does not suffer? Even when you are happy, a part of you may still be suffering subconsciously. The seers of ancient India knew it. It formed the core of many ascetic traditions of the subcontinent, who suggested different solutions and approaches to the problem of suffering. The Buddha echoed the same sentiment when he declared that birth was suffering, aging was suffering, sickness was suffering, death was suffering, feeling sorrow, pain, grief and despair was suffering, association with what you disliked or separation from what you liked was suffering, and in short the whole life was full of suffering.

Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, believed that all life forms suffered, but humans suffered even more because they were self-aware and endowed with reason and at some point they would realize how meaningless and purposeless the whole existence was. According to him the ability to contemplate the past and anticipate the future made humans subject to new forms of suffering since they could be haunted by the past and have feelings of remorse and regret.

Unnecessary suffering

This discussion is not about resolving the existential suffering which the Buddha or Schopenhauer talked about, but about unnecessary suffering, or the suffering which is avoidable, which we unnecessarily create or aggravate with our faults and falings and which we can resolve through careful planning and preparation. The idea of unnecessary suffering is mainly used in the context of animal welfare legislation and in animal care to prevent unnecessary cruelty to them. However, it is not just animals which are subject to unnecessary suffering by humans. We inflict unnecessary suffering upon ourselves and upon others by our actions.

There are essentially three main causes for suffering namely the acts of god or accidental causes (adhi-daivika), external causes or those caused by others (adhibhautika), and internal causes or those caused by oneself (adhyatmika). The last one is again of two types, physical causes and mental causes. We have little control over the first, since chance plays an important role in creating them. We have some control over the second type since we can learn from experience and take preventive measures to deal with them. With regard to the third type, we have greater control over them because we can identify the causes and learn to deal with them. It is where we have an opportunity to reduce unnecessary suffering which arises from our actions and those of others. The following are a few examples of how people may subject themselves to avoidable and needless suffering.

Worrying about things that do not matter

People often become emotionally involved with matters that should not concern them at all. Yet, millions of people become involved with social or political issues, which do not help them at all but cause them unnecessary stress and emotional disturbance. For example, some people in India commit suicide for a political cause or when a popular leader dies. It is unnecessary, yet they do. People spend sleepless nights when their favorite sports team loses a game, or when a movie of their favorite film star fails at the box-office. People also resort to violence and fistfights over petty matters and silly arguments. These are a few awful examples of how people become involved with unnecessary problems, which do not directly affect them and which create avoidable suffering.

Exaggerating our fears

People tend to be excessively pessimistic about the outcome of negative situations. They imagine worst case scenarios, think negatively and expect the worst to happen, rather than thinking through situations and estimating probabilities. It leaves many people constantly worried and anxious about their problems and insecurities. According to many studies people experience acute anxiety when they feel threatened due to exaggerated fears as their perception and thinking become distorted and as the repressed fears and insecurities of their past resurface. We also live in difficult times, where our fears are fueled by attention catching news stories and headlines that inflame public opinion with negative news and worst case scenarios. One cannot totally eliminate fear. However, we can reduce a lot of suffering by being realistic and objective about the threats we face and keeping our emotions under control.

Ignoring problems

When a problem is not resolved in time it becomes a crisis. Some people are proactive. They anticipate problems and resolve them before they even arise. However, many do not pay attention until a problem become serious and stares in their face. They ignore early warning signs and let problems simmer until they reach the boiling point, be it a health issue, a child’s aggressive behavior, a deteriorating relationship, a pending house repair, a letter or a complaint received from someone or growing debt. They do it because of fear and anxiety, or because they believe that it is too stressful to deal with such problems. Problems cannot be wished away. They do not disappear if you ignore them or delay your response. Pending matters mentally exhaust you as they create vague anxiety and sap your energy. Some problem may disappear with time but many persist and gather intensity. It is better to deal with your problems in time so that when new problems arise you are fresh and ready to deal with them.

Pessimism

Negative thinking makes people lower their expectations and expect bad things to happen. Negative people also more likely experience depression, low self-esteem, fear, anger, aggression, insecurity, and anxiety which may lead to many health issues, besides preventing them from seeing things clearly or thinking rationally. Therefore, pessimistic people are more vulnerable to unnecessary suffering, which can be avoided if they learn to think realistically and carefully analyze and consider all probable outcomes rather than fixating upon the worst. According to some studies, pessimism also lowers the life expectancy of people. Fortunately, pessimism can be overcome by changing our thinking and responses and by becoming actively involved in problem solving and goal oriented actions.

Negligence

In simple terms, negligence means failure to do what you are supposed to do, or act as responsibly as you should, or failure to honor your duties and responsibilities. In life you have many duties and obligations towards yourself, your family, others and the world in general. Failure to honor them can lead to many problems and suffering not only to you but also to others. It is the same as ignoring your problems. However, negligence may be either intentional or unintentional, which is not the case with the other. Intentional negligence may arise from inertia, lack of interest or motivation, wrong priorities, or unwillingness to take risks or deal with the problems of life. One can minimize such problems through self-discipline, attentive actions, proper checks and balances, committing oneself to one’s duties and responsibilities.

Lack of preparation

Failure creates a lot of suffering for most of us. Most of the time we fail because we do not try enough, prepare well or take care of the basics. If you want to succeed in any endeavor, you must prepare well in advance and put your heart and soul in it. There is no better alternative to success than knowing what needs to be done and execute it with complete resolve. To succeed in life, you must prepare yourself for success and be ready to manage it when you reach the goal. You must be willing to work hard, organize your resources and make necessary sacrifices. If you do not do it, you will end up facing failure, disappointment, shame and guilt, which in turn increase your suffering and feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. It is true even with regard to simple tasks such as giving a speech or making a presentation or negotiating for a pay rise.

Lack of control and discipline

Self-control is the ability to control your desires and natural urges or delay immediate gratification. It is also the ability to stick to a chosen course of action to achieve desired ends. Using discipline and control to regulate your life does produce some suffering since it requires effort to control your desires, craving and need for gratification. However, their absence is even more problematic and leads to many problems and disappointments in life. When people lack discipline, they fail to reach their goals or desired ends as they become easily distracted or fail to persevere. They may also succumb to selfishness, bad habits and unhealthy behaviors, which lead to unnecessary suffering.

Repeating the same mistakes

Failure is inevitable in many aspects of life. Since we are imperfect, we do not necessarily complete every task in the first attempt. Hence, we must learn from our failures to make progress and avoid being stuck. Suffering is a sign that some aspects of our lives, behavior or actions need improvement. Its essential purpose is to teach us lessons. When we do not learn from our failures and mistakes, we continue to repeat them and continue to suffer. You can avoid a lot of suffering by learning from your past, and not repeating the mistakes which caused you pain and suffering in the first place.

Irrational beliefs

We continue to entertain many irrational beliefs, prejudices and assumptions, which we might have inherited in the past from our parents, teachers, elders, peers and society in general. They lead to rigidity, narrow-mindedness, flawed opinions, self-fulfilling prophecies, selective perception, immature behavior, over generalizations, assumptive thinking, unrealistic responses, maladjustment and defensive behavior, which in turn create a number of problems and unnecessary suffering. It is therefore necessary to subject your beliefs to reality check according to your own experience, reason, knowledge and observation. You should also verify the assumptions that are hidden in your decisions, opinions and conclusions.

Becoming stuck in the past

Your past can be a source of unnecessary suffering if you become stuck in it and refuse to live your present moment. Life is never static. So is the world. They keep moving on, whether you move with them or not. Some people cannot get over their past failures, failed relationships or past pains. They keep repeating the old tapes in their minds and wallow in misery, feeling the same old pain, unresolved conflicts, and negative emotions such as fear or anger, even though the rest of the world moved on, and circumstances have changed. Simply because certain events happened in the past, it does not mean that they will happen again. Wisdom teaches that one should adapt to changing times and move on.

Not letting go

To avoid being stuck in the past, you should let go of it by cultivating an attitude of detachment and understanding. Know that we are all imperfect and we all make mistakes. There is no point in hanging on to your past memories and unnecessarily suffering from it. Whatever you cling to is a potential source of suffering, which includes your past and your memories associated with past events, especially those which are painful. Hence, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering in life by learning to forgive and forget. If you keep accumulating grievances, frustrations, complaints, anger and bitterness, you will be subjecting yourself to a lot of negativity, stress, and unresolved anguish. You can overcome it by changing your thinking, perspective and attitude, realizing that it happened in the past and it is no more relevant to your current situation. You can also leave behind your painful past, by acknowledging your mistakes, forgiving yourself and others, cultivating compassion and focusing on current goals. If you refocus your mind on present happenings, you can make peace with yourself and with your past. You can also reduce suffering by removing all the clutter from your life and simplifying it. Give away whatever you do not need instead of hoarding things.

Conclusion

When we examine our lives, thinking and actions, it becomes clear that we create a lot of unnecessary suffering, which can be avoided with careful planning, discipline and effort. If you want to lighten up and make amends with yourself, you should examine your life to see how you create your own suffering and make yourself vulnerable to negativity, a lot of which can be avoided. You cannot remove all suffering from your life, but you can mitigate a lot of superfluous suffering, which arises from your thinking and behavior or your internal causes.

You can also identity the external causes such as your friends or relations who complicate your life or cause your pain and suffering with their actions or their behavior and attitude so that you can appropriately deal with it. By removing negative attitudes, beliefs and habits, thinking through your problems, learning from your experience, staying in the present, dealing with your negativity, anger and hatred, letting go of your past, adapting to the changing times, freeing your mind from assumptive behavior and irrational thinking, focusing upon what you can do rather than what you cannot do and being realistic, you can reduce a lot of unnecessary and avoidable suffering that directly arises from your own actions and those of others.

*****

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Seth Kelly Curtis

Selections From The World’s Great Wisdom Traditions #4 Buddhism

 

 

The Four Noble Truths

Monks, what is the noble truth about suffering?

Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering, grief, lamentation, discomfort, unhappiness and despair are suffering; to wish for something and not obtain it is suffering; briefly, the five factors of attachment are suffering.

 

Monks, what is the noble truth about the origin of suffering?

Just this craving, leading to rebirth, accompanied by pleasure and emotion, and finding satisfaction now here now there, namely, the craving for sense-pleasure, the craving for new life and the craving for annihilation.

 

Monks, what is the noble truth about the cessation of suffering?

Just the complete indifference to and cessation of that very craving, the abandoning of it, the rejection of it, the freedom from it, the aversion toward it.

 

Monks, what is the noble truth about the way that goes into the cessation of suffering?

Just this noble eightfold way, namely, right view, right purpose, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

-The Buddha

 

 

Quaerite Et Invenietis “Seek and you will find”

 

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed”

 

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Seth Kelly Curtis

 

Words To Live By #8 ‘Invictus’

 

Quaerite Et Invenietis “Seek and you will find”

 

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed”

 

I’d like to include the poem ‘Invictus’ by late Victorian era poet William Ernest Henley. Invictus is Latin for ‘unconquered’. The poems speaker is demonstrating their unconquerable nature by proclaiming their strength in the face of adversity.

I believe we all have some level of adversity in our lives, so we can all look to these words for courage and inspiration

 

Invictus

by William Ernest Henley

 

“Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever Gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”

 

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

Kelly Curtis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosicrucian Reflections #2

 

Quaerite Et Invenietis  “Seek and you will find.”

 

“Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

 

“We can work, study, laugh and have fun, dance, sing, and enjoy many different experiences. These are a wonderful part of life, but they are not central to why we are here. The opportunity to choose good over evil is precisely why we are here. Not one of us would say “I want to choose evil.” We all want to choose the right. However, the choice of good over evil is not always easy, because evil frequently lurks behind smiling eyes.”

-Neil L. Andersen, Elder Mormon

 

“It is a metaphysical fact that for each minute of time we spend in thoughts of unfavorable impressions, unkind criticism, or hate toward any person, there will be hours of physical and mental suffering as a reaction. The first thing to do then, in considering the relief of any mental or physical condition is to analyze your mental self over a period of time preceding the condition and discover what thoughts , attitudes, and conditions of mind you have held or expressed, and immediately eliminate this attitude by reversing you opinions and thoughts, and holding thoughts of love and kindness instead. In other words, the poison from the mind that has been eating at the very heart of every cell in your body must be eliminated before any treatment can be given to relieve the ultimate and outer manifestations. Any other process is merely treating the outer manifestations as though giving them a drug to nullify the senses without removing the actual cause.”

 

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable.

 

Kelly Curtis

What I’ve learned on my spiritual quest.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

– Pema Chodron

 

I started on the path of my spiritual quest in my mid-twenties, right after I got out of the military. Having been raised in a half Catholic, half athiest family, I was able to make up my own mind on spiritual matters. We didn’t go to church in my immediate family so there was never any pressure to lead a religious life, or for that matter, a non-religious life. That notwithstanding, I did go to a Catholic school, fourth, seventh, and eighth grades, where my cousin Amby and I were notorious for getting into mischief. We had Nuns for teachers, straight from Ireland. I loved their accents, but had no love for their tempers. Amby and I made several trips to the Mother Superior’s office. She never saw the humor in our hijinks that my cousin and I saw.

I respected the Catholic religion, and still do, just as I respect all religions, but I have different ideas about spirituality, Mother Superior notwithstanding.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe after thirty-five years of spiritual quest. I know everyone will not agree with everything I believe , and I respect that, I think that’s the way God wants it, free will. So, after much research, reading, musing, and life experience, this is what I believe, what makes sense to me:

  1.    I believe that God isn’t some “man” sitting on a throne somewhere in the sky. If God was humanlike, God would be female anyway.
  2. I believe God is the animating force that permeates the universe. This is our lifeforce. It’s what holds everything together. It’s in you and me, and that rock over there, it’s what powers the sun, and makes the flowers grow. It’s what holds the planets in space and makes the blood flow in our viens. God is, simply put, everything, and we’re working our way back to her/him/it.
  3. I believe in reincarnation. I think we keep returning, learning each time until we get it right. I don’t believe we have just one shot at getting it right, and if we blow it we are tortured for eternity.
  4. Once we get it right, we don’t go to some paradise in the shy, but carry on, out into the universe on a great adventure, to a higher plane, to do more good work, until we rise once again on our quest to get back to God.
  5. We’re not here to amass as much wealth or material goods as we can, but to grow as spirits by giving of ourselves, by doing good deeds, by raising our vibrations thereby raising the planets vibration.
  6. I believe that we are in the universe, but likewise, the universe is in us. UNI-VERSE. Uni being one. The universe is a hologram. All is one, and one is all.
  7. I believe that we as Humans are much more powerful than we believe. we are made to be very creative beings. We can create the life of our dreams, but we have been conditioned since infancy to believe that we have no power, that we are at the mercy of fate. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion. We believe so strongly in our impotency because that is what has been drilled into us from an early age, that has been our reality.

If we could just forget our conditioning and think for ourselves, we would have the power to change our world, to make this planet a paradise of love and joy. All we must do is believe enough, use our imaginations. Visualize the life you want. Put emotion into it, really believe, no doubting allowed, and it will come to pass.

Let’s all try to create a more peaceful, beautiful planet, end suffering, and bring more joy and love to mother earth. we can do it if we believe.

May God bless and protect you and…

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe, and Comfortable.

 

Kelly Curtis

 

 

Suffering

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Suffering seems to be a part of life on this planet, we can’t get away from it. We all have to deal with suffering in different forms and levels, from mild to intolerable.. But what is suffering, and why must we?

From suffering we get experience, yeah, but who needs that kind of experience, right? So, look at it this way – suffering is a gift, if you believe we are here to learn and grow, and to gain experience. Suffering tempers the soul for when we finally leave this school and go out on our grand adventure into whatever awaits us out in the universe. Just try to remember that you’re not suffering because of what is happening to you, but because you think it’s not supposed to be happening. Ah! Let that sink in. In suicide, most don’t want to die, they just want the suffering to end, whether the pain be physical or mental.

Let’s look a little closer at suffering. Theologians believe that God allows us to suffer because of free will, or, freedom of choice. Others believe that the cause of suffering is attachment. The Bible says that during times of suffering we should look beyond the present and focus on the latent benefits we receive rom it. The Bible also refers to another aspect of suffering called Time and Chance. Basically that good and bad things happen to people regardless of whether they are good or bad . For example: The Bible tells of eighteen people who lost their lives when a tower fell on them. Jesus said about this: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.” He said that the accident at the tower was not divine punishment directed at the victims for their sins. Although poor construction may have played a part, it was strictly time and chance as far as the victims were concerned..

In Buddhism, suffering or, Dukkha is an important concept. It refers to the basic pain and unsatisfactoryness of everyday life. Dukkha is one of the four Noble Truths, and one of the three Marks of Existence. Dukkha, translated as “All is all”, is the foundation of Buddhism, and all of its teachings are based around it. The Buddha said: “I teach suffering and the end of suffering.”

The three marks of existence:

1: Dukkha – suffering

2: Anatto – no-self

3: Anicca – impermanance

 

The four noble truths:

1: Suffering and pain exist in life.

2: This suffering is caused by selfish craving and desire.

3: This selfish craving can be overcome.

4: The way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

 

The eightfold path:

1: Right view.

2: Right intention.

3: Right speech.

4: Right action.

5: Right livelihood.

6: Right concentration.

7: Right mindfulness.

8: Right concentration.

In science, suffering is categorized as physical or mental, but I’m writing about suffering in the broad sense; any feeling, sensation, or emotion that is unpleasant, be it mild, or intolerable. The theory of Hedonism states that good and bad consist in pleasure and pain. Epicurus’s doctrine states that we should first seek to avoid suffering, and that the greatest pleasure lies in a profound state of tranquility.

In the brain there are many structures and physiological processes involved in suffering. According to studies using neuro-imaging, the Cingulate Cortex activates when the person feels suffering from physical pain as well as social distress.

So now we know what happens in the brain when we suffer, why we suffer, and why God lets us suffer. My personal belief is that we are here to learn and grow and be tempered. It’s kind of like a boot-camp, if you will, to get us ready for the universe. I endured US Marine boot-camp, and believe me, those Drill Instructors made us suffer! But we knew it was to get us ready for what may come later. I survived boot-camp and four years as a Marine Infantryman, thankfully in peacetime. Although our bodies won’t survive our incarnation here on earth, our souls will. And they will go on to soar out into the universe, to shine as a spark of God. And shine we will because of the lessons and suffering we endured on this beautiful, but tough planet. God bless and protect you all.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

-Khalil Gibran

 

May you always be

Healthy, Happy

Safe and Comfortable

 

Kelly Curtis