Question: Throughout our lives we often suffer. How can we work with it? Why do we feel suffering? What should we do with it?
Answer: It’s impossible to advance without suffering. Until we reach our final goal, we keep advancing by the force of suffering.
Suffering is when I feel that something is lacking. Actual suffering isn’t necessary; I can derive pleasure from suffering. If I know that a special meal is awaiting me and I’m getting closer to it, if I know that I’m about to meet someone I love, a friend, and something good is about to happen, then it isn’t suffering any more. The feeling of hunger and emptiness stirs in me the anticipation of future enjoyment and fulfillment.
Therefore, our entire problem is not in sensing a lack at the present moment, but whether that lack has fulfillment, an answer in the future. If it does, then for me it’s as sweet as a feeling of hunger before a good meal. I can feel that satisfaction is coming. Suppose, you have a date with a loved one tonight, and you look forward to the meeting. Is there a chance that you will be miserable?!
In other words, the problem is not in my condition, but rather in if there is a pleasure that beckons me ahead or not. The problem is that people can’t see a proper, good future ahead of them and, therefore, feel suffering. If we felt that all the problems we have today would be successfully resolved tomorrow, we wouldn’t feel the hardships as suffering. Rather, it will be like an overture, a necessary preparation that precedes fulfillment.
Hence, our entire problem is in revealing the future in our current state, the one where everything will be fine. But it has to “shine” to us like a pleasant date.
This will be the answer to all our afflictions. We will agree to pass through all the unpleasant states—ascents and descents, all sorts of confusions in feelings and in mind—as necessary for our spiritual correction.
If, however, through support from our environment, we know that a bright future lies ahead, then any of our current states would not appear as suffering. We would perceive them as a necessary sensation, a wholesome hunger before cherished satisfaction from the meal.
From the 1st lesson of the Berlin Convention on 1/28/11