Sylvia Boorstein's simple summary is: "pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." Pain is a fact. Suffering is one of the many possible attitudes I can take when I experience pain. I very seldom suffer.
A friend with cancer tells me that for her, pain is an occasion for gratitude. By heightening the contrast, pain leads her to notice beauties and joys.
Most suffering seems to have a direct link to self-pity. That makes you unhappy and keeps you self-centered (instead of opening to an ever deeper sense of unity with everyone everywhere). Why bother?
I smile to realize that my mother was onto something big when she'd greet my childhood complaints with "think of the starving children in China."
These reflections come fast on the heels of bad news. Very big. Very bad. Someone I love has a rare, fast-growing cancer that surgery could not completely remove.
She is blind, merry, resourceful, witty, smart, independent, kind, active, busy, resilient, and knowledgeable about thousands of things because she reads (audio) books constantly. In actual truth, in the words of everyone who knows her, she is amazing.
Her nonchalant good humor and intelligence make it impossible for anyone to feel sorry for themselves, or to treat minor or even major stuff as tragic.
She commented that it's not hard to deal with this scary news as long as she feels good. As long as pain is theoretical. She deals in facts, and proceeds one step at a time, with faith.
The coming months are likely to stretch all of our limits and preconceptions. May God bless her. Will you join me in praying for her?
I know I have much to learn. I expect to learn from her. And I'm glad to learn from you. What's your perspective on suffering?