It’s strange that a practice like Buddhism, that is devoted to creating happiness, spends so much time talking about suffering. It is important to talk about suffering, because so many people suffer. Everybody suffers. Suffering is a normal part of life. The practice of becoming happy is learning how to live in the midst of all this suffering.
To be happy in the midst of suffering, you must learn to notice suffering in yourself and others. When you recognize that suffering is an unavoidable part of life, it is not such a big deal when you find yourself suffering. If you think that life should be a limitless, happy, joyous experience, then you will have no capacity to deal with suffering when it happens.
Suffering comes in all forms, physical pain, boredom, fear, anger, discontent, sadness, anxiety, stress, frustration, hangovers, PMS, tiredness, hunger, loneliness and on and on. Naturally, we want to avoid this suffering, but in trying to avoid suffering we forget to acknowledge that it is a significant part of our lives, and we try to ignore our suffering. When we look away from our suffering, we don’t get to know it, so we keep on suffering.
When we practice looking at our suffering, talking about suffering and thinking about suffering, we learn about suffering, just like doctors and nurses do. We learn not to ignore that significant part of our lives and we learn that we are completely capable of coexisting with our suffering. By engaging with suffering when we encounter it, we lose our aversion to suffering and we develop compassion. When we are filled with compassion, we can transform suffering and unleash that limitless joy that we always imagined.