Rick Hanson PhD
Mar 16, 2013
Where does it hurt?
We’re usually aware of our own suffering, which – broadly defined – includes the whole range of physical and mental discomfort, from mild headache or anxiety to the agony of bone cancer or the anguish of losing a child. (Certainly, there is more to life than suffering, including great joy and fulfillment; that said, we’ll sustain a single focus here.)
But seeing the suffering in others: that’s not so common. All the news and pictures of disaster, murder, and grief that bombard us each day can ironically numb us to suffering in our own country and across the planet. Close to home, it’s easy to tune … Read more »
Mar 01, 2013
I’ve noticed that I have a tendency not to notice that I’m suffering, and I suspect that a lot of other people do this too.
When I get annoyed with someone, I’m suffering. When I crave an experience, I’m suffering. When I’m anxious, I’m suffering, and so on. In a way this may seem obvious, but actually very rarely do we find ourselves annoyed or craving or anxious and say to ourselves “I’m suffering right now.” We tend to focus more on the thing that’s annoying us, or that we want, or that we’re anxious about.
And so a lot of our suffering is “under the radar” and doesn’t get … Read more »
Jan 11, 2013
It astonishes me how much time I spend making judgements about people, but the truly surprising thing is that although it makes me feel bad, I keep doing it. And it leads to unfortunate interactions with people which ends up causing them suffering too.
One thing that protects us against this kind of self-imposed suffering is lovingkindness (metta) practice. Lovingkindness is an important complement to mindfulness practice.
To cultivate metta we can do something as simple as repeat to ourselves, “May you be well; may you be happy” as we see others. We can do this while walking or driving, for example.
We can take a more reflective approach to … Read more »
Dec 14, 2012
Marge, a woman in our meditation community, was in a painful standoff with her teenage son. At fifteen, Micky was in a downward spiral of skipping classes and using drugs, and had just been suspended for smoking marijuana on school grounds. While Marge blamed herself — she was the parent, after all — she was also furious at him.
The piercings she hadn’t approved, the lies, stale smell of cigarettes, and earphones that kept him in his own removed world — every interaction with Micky left her feeling powerless, angry, and afraid. The more she tried to take control with her criticism, with “groundings” and other ways of setting limits, … Read more »
Nov 17, 2012
“Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.” – Byron Katie
Can you imagine understanding, even loving, someone who belongs to a group of people responsible for killing your father, brother, or best friend? Can you imagine growing close to someone whose people have driven you from your home, humiliated your family, and turned you into a refugee in your own country?
Twenty-two teenage girls from Israel and Palestine were flown in to a camp in rural New Jersey, where they would live together in the face of these questions. As part of a program called … Read more »
Aug 21, 2012
My earliest memories of being happy are of playing in the ocean. When our family began going to Cape Cod in the summer, the low piney woods, high dunes, and wide sweep of white sand felt like a true home. We spent hours at the beach, diving into the waves, body surfing, practicing somersaults underwater. Summer after summer, our house filled with friends and family—and later, with spouses and new children. It was a shared heaven. The smell of the air, the open sky, the ever-inviting sea made room for everything in my life—including whatever difficulties I was carrying in my heart.
Then came the morning some years ago when … Read more »
Jul 30, 2012
From time to time one of the teachings from the Buddhist tradition will niggle at me for one reason or another. Often it’s because my mind, on some level, is dissatisfied with the traditional interpretation.
Even some of the most common teachings of Buddhism, like the four foundations of mindfulness or the twelve links of dependent origination have sometimes struck me as being a bit off, and I’ve ended up reinterpreting them in a way that makes more sense to me.
This recently happened with a teaching on “Three forms of suffering (dukkha)” The traditional interpretations struck me as being a bit random, and I could feel that niggle deep … Read more »
Jul 02, 2012
I used to be confused about why the third truth came before the fourth. And I realize now that if I could not accept or believe that there was an end to suffering, I would not have trudged the path. After all, I would not have known what would be at the end of the path—or if there would even be an end. If somebody had described to me the path that would lead me away from suffering before telling me that there is an end in sight for suffering, I would have most probably had an attack of horrified anxiety. And convinced myself that the life I was living … Read more »
Rick Hanson PhD
Jun 22, 2012
Getting caught up in wanting – wanting both to get what’s pleasant and to avoid what’s unpleasant – is a major source of suffering and harm for oneself and others.
First, a lot of what we want to get comes with a big price tag – such as that second cupcake, constant stimulation via TV and websites, lashing out in anger, intoxication, over-working, or manipulating others to get approval or love. On a larger scale, the consumer-based lifestyle widespread in Western nations leads them to eat up – often literally – a huge portion of the world’s resources.
Similarly, much of what we want to avoid – like the discomfort … Read more »
May 07, 2012
When I first read the second truth, I had goose bumps, because I knew my life was heading in the direction of suffering. All the choices in my life were on the path of suffering, and all the things I was doing in my life too, kept me on the path of suffering. At age fourteen I had chosen to live on the streets. I had gone off the rails. Eighteen months with my biological mother from the ages of eleven to twelve and a half had taught me to self medicate. No adult could tell me what to do. I was going to take complete control of my life. … Read more »