“All human experiences are suffering”. Is this actually true?

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Rick Hanson from “Neurodharma”

“There are times when the mind is filled with physical pain, grief, fear, outrage, depression, or other overwhelming kinds of suffering.

I’ve had those times myself, and and it feels like suffering is all there is. There are also countless people who each day must bear pain, illness, loss, disability, poverty, or injustice.

And in a blink of an eye something might happen–perhaps a car on the highway swerving into you, or a shocking betrayal by someone you’ve trusted– that changed the rest of your life.

Suffering is certainly around us, and often if not always inside us. And still– are all of our experiences suffering?

Suffering matters because it is a particularly kind of experience–one that is unpleasant— so there must be other kinds of experiences.

The pleasure in eating a juicy peach is not itself suffering. Nor is virtue, wisdom, or concentration. Awareness itself is not suffering.

Human experience certainly contains fear and grief, but that’s not all it contains.

Further, any experience, even a painful one, is highly pixelated, with many elements like the individual brushstrokes of a painting.

Most of those elements are not themselves suffering. The redness of red, the knowledge that a ball is round…none of these is itself suffering.

These points may seem merely technical, but if we overlook what is not suffering, then we won’t truly understand what is suffering.

And we will miss out on experiences and resources that we could use both for increasing health and and well-being and for reducing suffering.

Recognizing suffering in yourself and others opens the heart and motivates practice. But these good ends are not served by exaggerating it.”

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