What is Suffering?

I’ve been reading many articles and books about mindfulness, healing, and what it means to suffer.  Exploration of these topics has been incredibly helpful for me this year.  Compassion and empathy are so important in life.  This Oprah interview with Thich Nhat Hanh is really beautiful to read.

This is helping me.  Perhaps it can help someone else out there too.


“Oprah: You use the word suffering a lot. I think many people think suffering is dire starvation or poverty. But when you speak of suffering, you mean what?

Nhat Hanh: I mean the fear, the anger, the despair, the anxiety in us. If you know how to deal with that, then you’ll be able to handle problems of war and poverty and conflicts. If we have fear and despair in us, we cannot remove the suffering in society.

Oprah: The nature of Buddhism, as I understand it, is to believe that we are all pure and radiant at our core. And yet we see around us so much evidence that people are not acting from a place of purity and radiance. How do we reconcile that?

Nhat Hanh: Well, happiness and suffering support each other. To be is to inter-be. It’s like the left and the right. If the left is not there, the right cannot be there. The same is true with suffering and happiness, good and evil. In every one of us there are good seeds and bad. We have the seed of brotherhood, love, compassion, insight. But we have also the seed of anger, hate, dissent.

Oprah: That’s the nature of being human.

Nhat Hanh: Yes. There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.

Oprah: Can’t have one without the other.”

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Oprah-Talks-to-Thich-Nhat-Hanh

Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean that there’s an absence of good.  It’s actually the opposite.  There’s always good stuff happening.  You have the opportunity to learn from all experiences.  There doesn’t have to be a separation of good and bad, in a black-and-white type of way.  Also, it’s not necessary to be a perfect person.  You don’t have to live a “perfect” life, whatever that image is that you have in your head.  You just have to be you.  Embrace the imperfections.
I’m learning acceptance and how to live as my imperfect self, and love my imperfect self.  It’s very freeing.  I hope I get better at it each day.

2 responses

  1. I really appreciate this post. It’s hard sometimes, but really important to remember that the hard times are normal, natural, and can give way to better times.Thanks for sharing.


    1. I’m really happy you liked it! Thank you!
      🙂 Kelly


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