The Buddhist Meaning of Suffering
Somewhere in the middle of the night I grokked the Buddhist meaning of suffering. I've resisted Buddhism for fifty years, in part because I never could believe the basic tenet that life is suffering. Now I see that the problem lies in translation.
I've had moments of transcendent joy, experiences that defy retelling, moments when I've known that I was absolutely one with everything in the universes, and all without drugs! How could I believe that the essence of life is suffering?
Then suddenly last night I got it. Suffering doesn't mean that we're unhappy or in pain. We can be supremely joyful and still be in the middle of the Buddhist definition of suffering. The term simply means that we are both spirit and body, and that as long as we are alive, we can never fully reconcile the two.
Our Physical Reality
As I wrote in the previous post, a few days ago I had what my friend Sister Mary McGehee calls a 'mystical knowing' that our reality is constructed purely from the firing of neurons in our brains. My 'reality' is uniquely mine and, in an odd sort of way, completely under my control. In the case of reality, perception really is everything.
Yesterday was a particularly bad day. I have picked up the emotions of someone (I have no idea who) who is really struggling, and I hover between lethargy and despair. Knowing that I'm experiencing someone else's state of heart doesn't make it go away, though it does give me a smidgen of distance. Last night I tried to find enough serenity to sleep, and nothing worked. The white cloth, meditating, asking for help for the unknown person, none of it meant anything because I was stuck in the being of someone who doesn't believe in these things, or at least can't access them in their present lowness.
That was when it hit me that I was suffering, Buddhist suffering, and the concept instantly became clear. I was stuck in a emotional, anxious body with no way out.
I have no idea why I'm a hyperempath, why I become another person's emotions. Searching for whys is a frustrating and unrewarded time-waster. All I can do is try to rationalize a positive outcome, some kind of learning from being inside someone else.
Angels with Bodies
The learning this time is that our existential Buddhist suffering is that we are at the same time angels, indivisible from the beauty and wonder of creation, and bodies, wrapped in the reality of the firing of our neurons.
My reading of Buddhism is that the solution is to transcend our bodies so that we become one with spirit. The problem with that approach is that we must always fail, at least until the moment of death.
Bodies as Gifts
My reading is a little different. I'm going way out on a limb here, so feel free to hop back down to the ground whenever you want.
We know that matter can have consciousness, which is what we experience every day. Scientists think this has something to do with energy. Got it.
If matter can become conscious, isn't it a lot more likely that energy (which is already energy) can be conscious? My out-on-a-limb theory is that there's way more conscious energy out there than there is conscious matter. I also think that consciousnesses that are pure energy might see conscious matter as a rare and delightful phenomenon.
Celebrate our Bodies (aka Suffering)
So perhaps we should not lament but celebrate when we get snapped back from transcendental oneness into mundane thoughts and emotions. The Christian view is that we get one kick-at-the-cat of having a body. Then we transcend into pure spirit. Or maybe we get to come back again and again, as in Buddhist teachings. Either way, we'd can darn well enjoy being embodied, including enjoying the 'suffering,' while we've got it.
We are in essence Schrodinger's cat, experiencing two states at the same time. We are quantum phenomena, both here and there, spirit and body. What a rush!
Having a material body may just be the greatest privilege in the universes. Enjoy!
As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments. Have you had an aha moment? What did you grok? Does anything I say here make sense to you? Let's chat.