When I first attended the 10-day free Vipassana Meditation course last year, they mentioned how meditation is supposed to help you deal with suffering.
At that point, I thought of suffering as something big that happened once in a while – some of my friends suffer from depression. Losing a loved one is always an inevitable and horrible life event. Getting badly hurt in a car accident could turn your whole life to suffering. Of course, there are longer-term horrific events happening around the world. Children dying from hunger. People tortured for political crimes. Hurricanes wiping out whole cities, etc.
And all of these big events are horrible. All of these cause immense suffering. But one thing I noticed during meditation, especially using the Vipassana meditation technique, which focuses on observing the sensations of your body, is that there are 1000s of small moments of suffering that we, as humans, go through every day.
Heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, anger, sadness, fatigue, hunger, cold, heat, sore muscles, too many thoughts, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, cramps, migraines, etc, etc.
I consider myself to be a young and healthy person, yet I’ve had horrible moments of being angry at my body for being so inflamed and inflexible that I’ve been on the verge of crying.
I think it’s important to notice our own daily suffering. Sure – it could be a bit embarrassing. I’ve often felt guilty for getting upset over a “first-world problem”. Here I am complaining about my job that offers me great pay and free food and other amazing benefits while there are people out there without food! What’s wrong with me?!!
Even loving somebody is a form of torture – just read Romeo and Juliet to see that! In today’s digital age of ghosting, pursuing romance is taken to a whole new level of suffering!
But perhaps that is the genius behind Vipassana meditation. By becoming aware of our own small daily suffering, we become aware that everyone else out there is suffering too. We can become nicer and more understanding toward other people.
A big part of observing the suffering in our own bodies is learning that the suffering is not permanent. It arises and it goes away. So while before I would get extremely angry when I was hungry, now I know that hunger is a temporary feeling that will go away – there is no need to get angry over it, which only increases my suffering.
I’ve found that observing my daily suffering can be a powerful way to heal myself and help others.