Exploring the Suffering of Suffering

As we begin to explore the first noble truth in more detail by examining the ways we personally suffer, we will come up against what the Buddha called the suffering of suffering, also called blatant suffering. This teaching speaks to the inescapable reality of unexpected things happening and how we generate suffering by our interactions with events more than from the events themselves. Rather than simply responding to what needs to be done as soon as difficulty arises with a clear head and open heart, we often provoke more anguish by our resistance and reactions. When we embellish our predicament with anger, hostility, or some form of opposition to our experience – assuming we don’t deserve this, or this should not be happening, we heighten our suffering tremendously, and often unintentionally.

Learning to meet every circumstance with attentive non-reactivity is not how the conventional mind operates. We will need strong intentions to take adversity onto the path, and a commitment to practice patience with all situations that arise. Without cultivating active attention, our dormant potential to meet all of life freshly and spontaneously will not be able to manifest. The fierce momentum of our unskillful mental habits is inextricably interwoven into our survival mechanisms. Discovering how to meet anger and resistance, disappointment and frustration (without either suppressing nor expressing these feelings) is a very skillful art that will require lots of self compassion.


Begin today to be especially interested in noticing when something goes wrong by pausing as it does and seeing if you can meet the feelings directly, as they are pulsing in your body. Without doing anything externally, simply track the myriad of sensations moving through you until they subside, however long that is. Then take 3 deep breaths, and see what your impulse is now.

Later that day, if you feel you were unskillful in your response, invite that part of you that is feeling bad about what you did or did not say or do to be soothed with these words toward yourself, ‘I am sorry this happened like this, another expression of my human-ness. At the level of my inner being I am still clear and kind, and I am now more present. I will make amends if I can, if not, I will let this be a helpful learning experience and now let it go.’

Take 3 fresh full breaths feeling into your belly center while you let your mind rest open like the sky for the next 6 minutes.

If you can’t seem to let it go, bring this issue to a mentor or spiritual friend to help you see it with more clarity and compassion. We all need support in these matters from time to time.