Our Suffering Depends On How Much We Resist The Pain


S = P (r)

The equation S = P (r) translates to "suffering equals pain multiplied by resistance."

According to Buddhist psychology, there are universal sufferings in human life. These are sufferings that all human beings experience: birth, aging, sickness, death, unfortunate circumstances, separation, and impermanence. We are all born, and since before our births, we all began to age. Eventually we will all get sick, and all human beings must die. Moreover, we are met with many unfortunate circumstances that are beyond our control: accidents sometimes befall us, lovers sometimes leave us, and many times life just does not go our way in some important ways.

And we are all separated from some people, places, and things that we truly want or need: some people just want an education, yet they can never seem to achieve it; some people just want to have children, yet they cannot; some people just want to find that one special person that they can share their life with, and yet this never occurs. And finally there is the fact that all things in this life are impermanent, and no matter how hard we try to make them stay, or how wonderful they are – everything changes.

In highlighting these realities, The Buddha did not intend to depress us. Quite the opposite in fact: he meant to help us work with and transform our thoughts and emotions. Believe it or not - the Buddha was actually a really happy guy!

His point was simple: if you own a human body, some pain in life is unavoidable. If you cannot sit with your pain, if you cannot make friends with your pain, then you will create additional pain. Essentially, it is our resistance to life’s pain – the ways in which we deny, minimize, and justify our reactive and afflicted thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – that causes so much additional and unnecessary pain.

This additional and unnecessary pain can (for the purposes of our equation) be called "suffering." Think of all the suffering that comes from numbing out the emotions of sadness, depression, and anger with alcohol, drugs, and food. If only we could become more willing to sit with our depression, then depression wouldn’t scare us so much.

And once we internalize the ramifications of this equation in the deepest possible way (in Buddhism this is often done via receiving trainings from a lama and in meditation, in modern Western society this is often done in psychotherapy), then we become much happier; much more authentic. In treatment at the Awakened Mind Institute, of course, both time tested Buddhist meditation and modern psychotherapeutic techniques are utilized to help our patients accomplish their therapeutic goals.

So we all still age, get sick, and die, but we cease fearing those inevitabilities (at least we learn to fear them less than we did the day before). And because we have less fear, we naturally live more fully and non-judgmentally in the moment. This is otherwise known as mindfulness. And when we flow from moment to moment (with little attachment to the results of any given moment), we are authentic and happier. We no longer need to complain and stress – at least not quite so much.

And while we all still experience birth, aging, sickness, death, and the rest, we begin to be able to experience them more fully, with a much greater sense of patience, ease, understanding, and courage. We are less offended by our pain. We cease resisting our pain, we stop blaming our pain on the people, places, and things around us (and the universe in general) – then our pain becomes manageable and even transformable. In the end, if all goes well, our pain becomes dwarfed by the gratitude and compassion we feel for the psychological freedom that now defines and pervades our lives. In the end, our pain becomes the path.