Emotional Suffering, Attachment and Awareness

In the Buddhist tradition suffering is caused by attachment – attachment to a person, an outcome, an image, a possession, attachment to suffering itself.  As most people are attached to something, we all suffer to greater or lesser degrees.  We suffer when someone dies, we lose a relationship or a job, when we perceive someone has betrayed us or we have lost face.  The suffering usually takes the form of sadness, despair, anger, fear or a host of other emotions we don’t like to feel on a regular basis.  It’s normal to resist such suffering, to try to push it away, get over it, deny it.  Awareness tells us there is a more profitable way.

The emotion points to our attachment.  Sometimes those attachments run deep – we are bonded with a spouse, a child, a parent.  When they leave or die, we are going to suffer.  And with loss like this, the only way through suffering is to go through it.  It may feel like the end of the world, but it’s not.  We do get through even if that fact is hard to hang on to in the midst of pain.  But not going through the suffering is to deny it exists.  Not to go through mourning means we will carry that sorrow around with us for a much longer period.

But sometimes emotions point to less primal attachments – to a self-image, a dream, possessions, status, an occupation, for example.  These attachments are constructs of our own minds.  The suffering of loss in these areas may feel devastating but if we go through it, feel it, delve into its crevices and corners, we find the attachment.  And in identifying the attachment, we reach a greater depth of self-awareness.

Why am I attached to my self-image, to being loved by one particular person, to the status of my occupation?  The answers can lead us to beliefs about our own self-worth and our inadequacies.  These too are painful discoveries but beliefs can be changed.   And if we are willing to work at change, suffering is transformed from something to be avoided into something that brings freedom and growth.  It would be nice to do the growing without the suffering, but suffering seems to be a primary catalyst of growth for human beings.

Here are some lines that can help in times of suffering:

Breathing in, I return to the island of just this moment.
Here is where the sky, the ground,
and the air hold me up, comforting me.
Breathing out, I begin again.                                                                                                                                                 

Geri Larkin –  http://spiritualityhealth.com