If you experience unhappiness in mind and body, a general dis-satisfaction with how situations in your life have turned out, or are currently unraveling, you are not alone. I feel this often. We are a vulnerable species in a challenging world. There is sadness, heartbreak, violence, hate, and unimaginable events occurring everyday. I have no answers, and sometimes no words for solace or support. As a nurse, I have observed and attempted to alleviate pain and suffering. As a daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother, I have experienced pain, loss and suffering.
Our culture here in the United States, gives sympathy (I feel bad for you) in times of loss or sadness. Typically, with a card, or with flowers. We express our empathy (I feel bad with you) in times of difficulty with a hug, or a visit that offers space to listen and support. Compassion (I want to take part in alleviating your discomfort) is an amazing and powerful tool, it is a great connector. It allows us to open a door to understanding, acceptance, and more fulfilling relationships. It also promotes self care and self love. How can you give anything when your own energy is depleted? There are many ways to actively pursue compassionate acts, through charity and volunteer work, meal sharing for those in need, child care, or elder care, an open ended option of availability and time. These three pillars of care are ways to ease suffering, they fill our hearts with gratitude, magnifying our ability to love, live and thrive.
In the Theravada tradition of Buddhist philosophy, there are four noble truths. For the purposes of this post, I'll keep things simple and direct, these are the four noble truths defined. The first one is known as dukkha, it is the validation that suffering exists. For me, this acknowledgment allows it to be real and shared. The second one is samudaya, there is a cause of suffering. Certain causes of suffering are obvious in life, but others not so much. The third is nirodha, there is an end to suffering. Breaking it down, you can think of smaller sufferings, like headaches, short term illnesses (infection or a virus) before opening into the larger view of suffering. These noble truths are presented in a way that can hopefully bring a greater understanding to your conscious life. The fourth one is manga, the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Finding that path can be difficult. It is also possible to become stuck in between these abstract theories.
I think of these four noble truths as different roads to take in life. Guided by various choices, perceptions, and the concept of impermanence, everything is temporary. Change exists in our lives, and nothing stays the same. It may not seem like that when you are enduring a hardship, but change happens moment to moment, sensation to sensation, and breath by breath. The fourth noble truth, manga: the path leading to the cessation of suffering is navigated by the Noble Eightfold Path. The steps are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Simply stated, the Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three themes. Good moral conduct (understanding, thought, and speech), meditation and mental development (action, livelihood, and effort), and wisdom (mindfulness and concentration).
Gaining insight to the four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path is a lifetime of learning. Here is an easy daily coping tool to begin walking this path of awareness.
Finding ways to grow compassion for ourselves and others is needed now more than ever. I hope these small offerings have opened your hearts and minds towards a greater appreciation of self care, self love, and self compassion, and how its positive contribution can affect all living beings.
"True love is the recognition of another in yourself."