Should I offer you a happy experience or a pain-ful experience, I would venture an overwhelming majority would choose the “happy” experience. We live our lives seeking happiness, though surprisingly, many cannot articulate what it is that truly creates a sense of contentment.
In recent conversation with another wellness practitioner, she confirmed the one question which stumps most of her clients is “what brings you joy?”
So, what brings YOU joy?
Not easily answered for all, we continuously search.
A favorite interpretation of the above sutra references an ancient, fabled musk deer. The deer runs here, there, everywhere in search of a musk scent- each time “almost” finding the scent, not knowing the it comes from its own forehead.
Just as the scent comes from the musk deer himself, so too does happiness come from within.
We not only search for happiness, we avoid pain. Not just because we might “burn” ourselves, but instinctually we relate pain to suffering, and suffering is an antithesis to happiness.
Jeff Kober, in a recent blog, explores a very similar premise. He states that physical (i.e. stepping on glass) and emotional (death of a loved one, broken relationships or career disappointments) pain is a given, it’s a part of life, however, suffering..
“Suffering… is what we experience when we think about the pains we have experienced, when we tell ourselves why we have the pains we are experiencing, try to think our way out of future, imagined pains, or blame ourselves or others for the pains we are experiencing in the moment. Any sort of speculation about pain, or truly, the act of speculation itself, will lead to suffering. Always and only.”
So where in your life do you suffer? What triggers force you into worrying and speculating about the future? Where does pain act as a vehicle for suffering?
In terms of every-day application, as I look back over the last ten-fifteen years of my life, I see that so much of my suffering was self-inflicted and all future-based. For the most part, suffering came mostly from resting in, and digging into, the emotional pain.
Whether due to loss of loved ones or severe stress at school, then later work, the deep-seated pain was related to the lens I created for my future. It was all speculation:
I would be a failure (definitely not). I wasn’t getting into either master’s program and therefore I wouldn’t be able to achieve my dreams (got into both, choose not to pursue that particular dream after further education), I was bound to be fired (never) I made a stupid career move (still up for debate ;), but Ill go with NO) – VERY happy supporting others as a life and business coach and love teaching yoga.
On another level, when I lost my father, the suffering came wholly from what I would be missing out on. I cried not just for missing him, but for the future we wouldn’t be able to share or explore together. And that big break up? When the relationship we both viewed as our future had forever ended, the pain was not just for what I did not have in the moment, but was exacerbated by the future I wouldn’t have (but also was not sure I wanted). Years later, I couldn’t be more grateful. The end to that relationship created the space for a future I could have never imagined. What I needed and wanted then is wholly different than today.
So where, in the search for happiness, do you avoid pain, because pain means suffering? And how much of that pain, that suffering, can you extricate with awareness?
As I reflect, I acknowledge that it’s not the pain that is the antithesis to my happiness, but the self-inflicted suffering. And I’m still a work-in-progress.
Today when faced with similar moments, I continue speculate and I still suffer. It’s a well-built muscle. But being aware of that landscape, I rest less in the pain, and far more in my happiness. I choose not to avoid the pain, knowing that in many cases, it brings me to a better place. And knowing that my happiness is not related to the pain, I create and generate more contentment than I have ever experienced.
Complex and not just a singular thought, would love to hear your take away and what resonates for you.
With love and light,
Rachel (To receive these weekly in your inbox, subscribe below the footnotes :) )
Sri Swami Satchidananda, Translation and Commentary, “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” Book 2, Sutra 8, page
 Jeff Kober, “The Problem of Suffering.” Vedic Meditation Thought for the Day, March 25, 2017.