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The Difference Between Pain and Suffering

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness. Today, I'd like to talk about the difference between pain and suffering. So to illustrate the difference, I'm going to share with you a story that comes from Buddhist teachings, and it's a story about two arrows. So let's say that you walking in the woods and suddenly you get struck by a small arrow. It hits you in the arm.

Obviously, this is painful. You know, it really hurts. But then your mind responds to that pain immediately. So your mind starts to think, oh my God, who the hell would fire an arrow? What kind of idiot would do that? I'll show them pain. And then, you know what minds are like, they just go on and on.

Wait, oh my gosh. What if this wound gets infected and then my arm no longer works. It has to be amputated. I'll lose my job and go broke. What's going to happen to my family? Maybe my husband or wife will leave me because I'll be disabled.

Oh, I am so stupid for coming out here. I hate this forest. So the first arrow in this story represents pain, which is just any basic unpleasant, unwanted or painful experience that happened in our lives. Now it's very unlikely that you or I are going to get struck by an arrow, but we do get struck by stressful situations. Illnesses, and losses, conflicts with loved ones.

We have misfortunes and setbacks, traffic jams and noisy neighbors. That is the first arrow. Then the second arrow is this. Because we're often unable to accept the pain or unpleasantness of what's happening in our lives, we resist it mentally. We fight with the reality of the way things are in the moment.

So we turn the pain into psychological suffering, or we add more psychological suffering on top. Now the Buddha taught that pain is something that's inevitable in life. We all experience that. Suffering, though, is optional. That's because it's something we self create.

We often just don't realize we're doing it. There's an equation that's really helpful to understand and that is pain times resistance equals suffering. So what this points to is the more that you mentally resist or fight against or argue with the pain of the present moment, the more psychological suffering you experience. That's worth saying again. The more you mentally fight against or argue with anything that's happening in your life, the more you will suffer.

Now, conversely, the more acceptance you bring to the moment, the less you suffer. And acceptance simply means acknowledging that yes, this is how it is right now. What we're experiencing is just the simple facts of life. Whether we like it or not, just is what it is. So this acceptance puts a stop to that cycle of pouring mental suffering on top of our pain, and gives us the mental space to clearly assess what's happening and decide how we can most skillfully respond.

As Viktor Frankl once said, "Between stimulus and a response, there is a space. And in that space lies our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and our freedom." So that's the invitation for practice to bring in more acceptance. And always, as always, thank you for your practice and your presence here. And let's settle in for today's meditation.

Melli O'Brien

4.7

The Difference Between Pain and Suffering

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness. Today, I'd like to talk about the difference between pain and suffering. So to illustrate the difference, I'm going to share with you a story that comes from Buddhist teachings, and it's a story about two arrows. So let's say that you walking in the woods and suddenly you get struck by a small arrow. It hits you in the arm.

Obviously, this is painful. You know, it really hurts. But then your mind responds to that pain immediately. So your mind starts to think, oh my God, who the hell would fire an arrow? What kind of idiot would do that? I'll show them pain. And then, you know what minds are like, they just go on and on.

Wait, oh my gosh. What if this wound gets infected and then my arm no longer works. It has to be amputated. I'll lose my job and go broke. What's going to happen to my family? Maybe my husband or wife will leave me because I'll be disabled.

Oh, I am so stupid for coming out here. I hate this forest. So the first arrow in this story represents pain, which is just any basic unpleasant, unwanted or painful experience that happened in our lives. Now it's very unlikely that you or I are going to get struck by an arrow, but we do get struck by stressful situations. Illnesses, and losses, conflicts with loved ones.

We have misfortunes and setbacks, traffic jams and noisy neighbors. That is the first arrow. Then the second arrow is this. Because we're often unable to accept the pain or unpleasantness of what's happening in our lives, we resist it mentally. We fight with the reality of the way things are in the moment.

So we turn the pain into psychological suffering, or we add more psychological suffering on top. Now the Buddha taught that pain is something that's inevitable in life. We all experience that. Suffering, though, is optional. That's because it's something we self create.

We often just don't realize we're doing it. There's an equation that's really helpful to understand and that is pain times resistance equals suffering. So what this points to is the more that you mentally resist or fight against or argue with the pain of the present moment, the more psychological suffering you experience. That's worth saying again. The more you mentally fight against or argue with anything that's happening in your life, the more you will suffer.

Now, conversely, the more acceptance you bring to the moment, the less you suffer. And acceptance simply means acknowledging that yes, this is how it is right now. What we're experiencing is just the simple facts of life. Whether we like it or not, just is what it is. So this acceptance puts a stop to that cycle of pouring mental suffering on top of our pain, and gives us the mental space to clearly assess what's happening and decide how we can most skillfully respond.

As Viktor Frankl once said, "Between stimulus and a response, there is a space. And in that space lies our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and our freedom." So that's the invitation for practice to bring in more acceptance. And always, as always, thank you for your practice and your presence here. And let's settle in for today's meditation.

Melli O'Brien

4.7

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