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how do I break the cycle of suffering?

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

how do I break the cycle of suffering
how do I break the cycle of suffering

Consider this:

taking issue with occurrence
is the root of all emotional suffering
& is occurrence

Lemme elaborate on that.

Events occur. Life is a series of occurrences.

Sometimes, we take issue with what's occurring. Traffic jam. Perceived insult. Stubbed toe. Troubling thought.

We object. We bemoan. "No way.""F this!" "Not fair." "You gotta be blippin kidding me."

Taking issue with what's occurring causes emotional suffering. We're resisting reality. The friction between what's actually happening - occurrence - and what we believe should be happening - something else - is the pain of emotional suffering.

We stub our toe. Physical pain.

We act like the toe stubbing shouldn't have happened. Emotional pain.

how do I break the cycle of suffering?

The Buddha described this in the 2nd noble truth: suffering is wanting. Here, we're wanting what's already happened to have not happened, to un-happen. This fearful fictionalizing generates falsity in us. That falsity hurts. It's like a jagged pebble in our shoe, a toothpick stuck in our throats. And it hurts worse the more we fight against it.

Hearing this, we may think - well, just don't take issue with occurrence.

Tricky thing is, we take issue reflexively, reactively, unconsciously. We often don't realize we're doing it until it's already happening.

This is the pivotal moment. This moment of realizing we're in the act of taking issue with occurrence. Here's where we either add to our suffering or pivot to healing.

We know from wisdom that taking issue with what's occurring causes suffering.

And, what's occurring in this moment is - we're taking issue with occurrence!

Instinctively, we then take issue with THAT. We take issue with the fact that we're taking issue. Which feels wise, because we're combating what's causing suffering.

But you can see the tragic irony. We just end up causing more suffering. Because it doesn't matter what we're taking issue with. It's taking issue itself that causes suffering.

Return to the quote:

taking issue with occurrence
is the root of all emotional suffering
& is occurrence

Let's put this into practice.

Our sandwich arrives. Sticking out from between the slices of bread is a long strand of someone else's hair.

We suddenly realize that we're already taking issue with this. We're fearing the hygiene. We're worrying we won't be able to eat this sandwich. We're worrying how long it'll take to get a new sandwich. We're questioning the quality of the dining establishment.

We didn't consciously cultivate this reactive state. Our reactive minds simply launched into negativity at the mere sight of that hair in our sandwich.

Now what?

Don't throw fuel on the fire by condemning your reactivity.

Recognize, relax, & move on.

Overreacting & overthinking dig us deeper into the hole of suffering.

Recognition & release give us a moment's peace.

Maybe we ask the waiter to bring a replacement sandwich.

Maybe we pull out the hair and eat the sandwich anyway.

Maybe we find a way to sympathize - haven't we all dropped our hair into other people's sandwiches, in one way or another?

Maybe we take a few breaths and wait for a better idea.

Regardless, we're more likely to make a wise choice is we act from a space of awareness, rather than from a frenzy of reactivity. Let yourself off the hook for having reacted negatively. Look at the situation as it is. Let yourself find some balance & calmness. Proceed from there.

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