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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.

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