Pain vs. Suffering

Pain is inevitable


Many people today teach suffering: how to live with it, how to work through it, even how to benefit from it. But I teach ENLIGHTENMENT – with Enlightenment there is no suffering.

I know pain is inevitable. There will always be painful experiences in life – physical, emotional and spiritual. Pain really can’t be avoided. Suffering, however, is a matter of choice. Suffering is not the same as pain. Suffering is the result of holding onto the hurt long after the source has withdrawn.  It occurs in response to thoughts such as: “Why me?!” “It isn’t fair!” “This is horrible!” “I can’t stand it!”

Whereas pain is an experience, suffering is a perception




Pain is a signal that healing is required. Suffering is a result of repeated failure to act on that signal. That physical healing can relieve pain is obvious – but we forget that spiritual and emotional healing is also required. It is this type of healing that stops pain from turning into suffering.

Those who suffer have gotten into the habit of numbing or avoiding (through blame, resentment, anger, addictions, or compulsions), the pain-signals that would otherwise motivate the healing, repairing, or improving process.

It takes mindfulness and emotional reconditioning to break habits.

Is this easy? Of course not. However, it is absolutely possible. By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.

helen keller quote


  1. Don’t embellish your story.

    Something hurt you in the past – a moment ago, a year ago, a life time ago. When you recount the incident, leave out the unnecessary drama about how the event “ruined” you. Give yourself the freedom to move on.

    A regular meditation practice can help you with this.

  1. Learn to embrace change and uncertainty.

    We live life in a series of moments. Instead of resisting the changes we face, choose to make the present moment more acceptable than the last. And remember the next moment could be completely different again.

  1. Smile, even if you don’t feel it inside.

    We have more power to change our mood than we realize. By creating a sort of positive feedback loop through smiling we can make a big difference in overcoming our own suffering rather than being entrenched in it.


Thich Nhat Hanh quote


  1. Break out of your usual routine.

    Sometimes suffering comes about because we’ve ground ourselves down into a rut. We obsess over our loss and can’t seem to think of anything else. At times like these, it helps to give our psyche and soul  a jump-start by doing something we wouldn’t normally do.

  1. Help ease someone else’s suffering.

    When we experience pain, it’s easy to isolate ourselves and believe that no one has it worse than we do.

    While whatever pain you are experiencing is unique to you, it helps to remember that all human beings share the capacity for joy and suffering. Having contact with someone else that is also having a difficult time and offering them simple kindness can be a great antidote to our own suffering.

  1. Remember your basic goodness.

    No matter how chaotic or negative the circumstances of our life, there is a ground of basic goodness in ourselves and in the universe that we can count on.


Rinpoche quote



When you are in the midst of deep pain, practice these points. They can help to remind you that in a multitude of ways, the universe is supporting you. And remember that while there is self-generated suffering, there is also self-generated happiness. Choose to be happy!




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