As the Buddha said, pain is inevitable. Everything we have, everyone we love we will lose before or at the moment of death. It does no good to be the richest man in the graveyard.
In contrast, suffering is the pain we impose upon ourselves through defenses. We suffer when we buy a lie or tell one. And defenses are the lies we tell ourselves to avoid the pain life brings. Thus, suffering is always the result of our resistance to what is. We can resist reality, the way things are, but reality keeps being here in spite of our resistance.
We can bully others. We can tell them they are wrong. We can tell ourselves how wrong they are. But reality does not need our approval to exist. When we resist reality, we push away the life force within us—our feelings. And we push away life itself. We push and we push. We resist for all it’s worth. But life continues to leak through the defenses we erect. We refuse to let our emotions go through us. We refuse to let the emotions of others go through us. We refuse the energies of life from within and without.
We retreat within the snail shell of our defenses. But then we forget who we really are: the ocean that contains the rising and falling waves, the space within which thoughts, sensations, and feelings arise, the riverbed in which the river of life flows.
Why do we fear this river of life that we are? During the breakthrough to feeling, the inner truth dissolves our thoughts as we discover who we always were underneath. We discover that thoughts, which seemed to be the bars imprisoning us externally, were created internally. We discover that we weren’t overwhelmed by our feelings. Our illusions were overwhelmed and washed away. The ocean is never overwhelmed by a wave.
We experience ourselves as a flowing river and the river bed through which the river rushes and slows and rushes again. After the loss, the rage, the guilt, the grief, the ocean is still here, the space within which the feelings erupted is still here holding this moment, the river bed and river are still flowing, more things going over the waterfall moment by moment.
Life keeps showing up, teaching us, inviting us to find out who we are. In response, we resist life and the pain it offers, choosing our defenses and the suffering they impose. But even this additional suffering, however painful, invites us to dive into reality, ourselves, to find out who we really are under the lies we have told ourselves.
“So am I supposed to give up?” “Am I supposed to submit?”
We don’t have to give up on life. But we could give up our lies and defenses. We don’t have to give up on reality, but we could stop asking reality to fit our fantasies. The mystical traditions refer to surrender. This is not merely surrender to reality, but, more importantly, surrender of the false self, of the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we swallowed.
We don’t have to submit to reality. It just is. It doesn’t need our submission. We don’t have to submit to the truth. It just is. It exists whether we relate to it or not.
When we give up our defenses, we become aligned with our emotions. When we give up our lies, we become aligned with the truth. When we give up our fantasies, we become aligned with reality. Resistance equals suffering. Suffering equals a message. Suffering is a call from the universe: come home to reality, to truth, to yourself. Come home.