Suffering: Part 1

Health and Happiness

According to the Dalai Lama, the purpose of life is to seek happiness. Many people mistake pleasure for happiness.
The first step to happiness is having an optimal state of health. That is more than freedom from illness. That would simply represent the ability to perform day-to-day biological functions without the help of another person or a pharmacopeia of medication. An optimal state of health creates in you the power to choose from many possibilities. It gives you a sense of hope and purpose that minimizes suffering. Assuming you have a reasonable state of physical health, suffering is the biggest hindrance to health and happiness.

Suffering is a choice

Say I prick you with a pin. You reflexively respond by withdrawing your hand and saying Ouch. Did it really hurt? Probably not. Your body responds only to the physical sensation of the prick. But because of conditioning, your mind anticipates suffering—a negative emotional reaction—before the actual sensation of pain.

Close your eyes and imagine I am about to touch your cheek with a red hot poker. You feel the heat as I move it closer and closer. You know if I were to make contact you would feel the most excruciating, burning pain. Even with just this written description, your mind accepts and prepares for the pain. That is how mental expectation can cause you to suffer even though, in objective reality, there is no pain. Perception becomes reality.

It works the same way in reverse. Take for example some Indian Hindus who, during special religious rituals, go into a trance and walk over a bed of burning coals totally unscathed. They condition their minds to feel neither pain nor suffering. And it is not only a mind game. Their bare feet do not blister or burn.

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