Lately I have been seeing this. Ending suffering is a fine concept that may belong in a perfect world but seems useless as a philosophical statement for living our lives. Reducing suffering is always possible. I can see how I’m suffering and finds way to reduce that. In the daily recollection there is a statement I truly love: “If I am suffering it’s because I’m choosing something over ending suffering.” Exactly so. l can notice and reduce my suffering, but at a price. I may have to let go of something.
There are many kinds of suffering, as many as there are people who suffer. It has been said that suffering is a mental construct, a way of thinking that can be changed. Perhaps that’s true in the moment, but long term there are billions of events that will enable suffering if we are indeed human. Some say others suffering can be witnessed not taken personally, and for a lot of experiences I find that to be helpful.
But I can’t always step back and witness OTHER’S suffering. I am aware that the encouragement is to witness suffering and to realize that it’s not mine. Know what? That sounds right unless the suffering is about someone I love. That includes all those I consider family or with who I have close emotional ties. Then the only thing I can do is share that suffering in my own way. It’s a razor thin edge that moves from compassion about others suffering from a distance to sharing the suffering directly.
Sharing suffering does something I find remarkable. It diffuses the suffering, I take on some of that suffering and respond from that place. This may be closer to the real meaning of compassion, a shared cognitive emotional communion that lessens the impact of another’s experience. It isn’t about the experience of suffering, that’s a human trait that exists to some degree because we are human, it’s what we do with the suffering that matters. We can dwell on it and make it stronger or we can acknowledge the suffering, share it, and find ways to diminish it.
Caring is powerful when enacted, care deeply and see what happens.