Lessons from Buddha: On Suffering and Letting Go
Do you remember the Buddhist saying that the origin of suffering is attachment?
You may have read it somewhere before. I’ve seen it as an inspirational quote and discussed by friends who are Buddhists, but I never really understood what it meant.
By attachment, we mean the desire to have something. Status, money, physical items, prestige. Or conversely, the aversion to something - physical pain, certain emotions, certain situations or people.
To desire or to be averse to something is to be human - we all have dreamed of what it would be like to have limitless means, a new outfit for every day and perfect hair days every day,
But the problem comes when we cannot fulfill those desires or aversions - and that makes us angry or frustrated or sad or confused, and that is what causes suffering for us.
The funny thing? It’s something that we do to ourselves. .
There are many types of pain in life. There are the things that we can’t escape - bad luck, poor fortune, accidents, misfortunate timing. But there are some aspects of pain that we can control in our lives.
The problem because when we think that we deserve, we ought to, or that we need to have these things. The lack of these things is what causes us distress.
If you don’t have enough money to dress the way that you think you should, then you’re going to feel terrible about yourself no matter what it is that you purchase.
If you don’t have a big enough home, you feel ashamed about your current home instead of loving and enjoying living in it.
And in fact, the suffering is robbing us of the joy that we could be experiencing right now. If there is a desire to always have more and it is not kept in check, it quickly eats away at ourselves and our happiness.
Okay. So how do we stop this?
It’s quite simple, and you may have guessed the answer already.
By limiting our desires, we end our suffering.
Easy enough, right?
It’s a bit more complicated than that.
We all desire or are averse to things. It’s what makes us human, makes us alive. But the limitation is the most important part.
Yet, it is hard. We are emotional creatures first, then logical creatures following our emotions. How can we reduce these desires that seem so deep rooted in us?
You let go.
Let go of the perception that we need certain things.
Let go of the need for acceptance and recognition from people.
Let go of our insistence that life be a certain way and that certain things should happen.
It’s not easy of course
There’s a reason why Buddhism is a lifelong pursuit.
But it is only through letting go of our attachment, our desire for things that we can truly experience the end of suffering, our frustration at things not being the way they should be.
By being happy with what we have, we end the suffering. By letting things just be that we cannot control and don’t necessarily need to change, we allow ourselves to have peace and acceptance of the way things are.
Maybe it’s writing in a gratitude journal. Perhaps it’s meditation or praying. Maybe it’s chatting with a girlfriend over coffee or drinks. We all have our ways of letting go and being at peace with things. But the more that we can understand and accept, the less that we fight things, the more happiness we will find - and the less suffering we will endure.
Take a breath. And just let go.
Are there ways that you practice acceptance in your life? What are you struggling against? Is there something in your life that is causing you pain, suffering?