suffering is optional

I find great comfort in the Buddhist practices of mindfulness and meditation even though I am not a practicing Buddhist. For someone like me who lives with a chronic illness, Buddhist concepts teach acceptance of whatever is present in life. I have found their teachings practical and compassionate.

I received the new issue of the Shambhala Sun this week and want to share with you the best description of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths by Sylvia Boorstein

“Life is challenging because everything is always changing and we continually need to adjust to new circumstances.

Adding struggle to challenge creates suffering. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.

Peace is possible. In the middle of a complicated life, the mind can remain at ease.

The path for developing this kind of mind involves attention to ethical behavior, to disciplining the habits of the mind through meditation, and to ardent attention.

I never expected to get sick. I planned to work as an occupational therapist until retirement age. Nor did I ever expect to need a walker … My life has been all about changes and adjustments and I imagine that your’s has too.  When I was first diagnosed, I denied that anything was wrong and, indeed, for several years things were going pretty well.

As the MS (that is in my body) progressed, it became necessary to make adjustments.  The most visible adjustment was when I started to use a cane. It was embarrassing and I felt a great deal of shame that as an occupational therapist I wasn’t able to prevent this decline despite my best efforts to exercise, eat healthy and stay active.

Embracing what is.

This is not what I expected my life to be.  I was doing my spiritual work, praying, and seeking healing….I was suffering.

The end of suffering and acceptance came when I stopped wishing my life were different and embraced this new life. I still do the spiritual work, pray, and ask for healing but I’ve begun to re-define what it means to live well. While my body isn’t able to do all that I want it to anymore, it is not who I am. The who that I AM feels pretty darn good most days…..  and yes, with each loss, there still comes another round of suffering, letting go and accepting “what is.”

How about you?  Where are you holding on to ideas about what you thought your life should be like?  Where do you suffer?


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