Although the world is very full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.

Helen Keller

pain - healing

The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.

Thomas Merton

In the face of suffering, one has no right to turn away, not to see. In the face of injustice, one may not look the other way.  When someone suffers, and it is not you, that person comes first.  One's very suffering gives one priority. . . . To watch over one who grieves is a more urgent duty than to think of God.

Elie Wiesel

The Buddha taught that suffering is the extra pain in the mind that happens when we feel an anguished imperative to have things be different from how they are.  We see it most clearly when our personal situation is painful and we want very much for it to change.  It's the wanting very much that hurts so badly, the feeling of "I need this desperately," that paralyzes the mind.  The "I" who wants so much feels isolated.  Alone.

Sylvia Boorstein


I marvel now that it was not obvious how inextricable suffering and fear are. It was not until fear left that I noticed, slowly, how it seemed to have taken suffering with it. It took a while to figure out that (for me, anyhow) suffering is mostly caused by fear--not by the circumstances themselves, but by my response to them.

Jan Frazier
When Fear Falls Away


Realize that your suffering has meaning and purpose.  It has
made you more compassionate to others' suffering.  You can
now use your pain to help others overcome suffering.

Susan Santucci


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And the miracle is:  if you can go into your suffering as a meditation,
watching, to the deepest roots of it, just through watching, it disappears.
You don't have to do anything more than watching.  If you have found
the authentic cause by your watching, the suffering will disappear.



Strength is a capacity for endurance.  One of the dividends
of suffering is the universal discovery the we possess a
strength within us we never knew we had.  Navigating through
a difficult episode not only shows us that inner strength is
there but convinces us it will always be there to serve us in
the future.  Overcoming gives us an assurance of personal
confidence and value that far exceeds what we thought
we possessed before our struggles began.

Dennis Wholey

Nothing can be attained without suffering but at the
same time one must begin by sacrificing suffering.

G.I. Gurdjieff


Suffering raises up those souls that are truly great; it is
only small souls that are made mean-spirited by it.

Alexandra David-Neel


We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they
do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


You can hold back from the suffering of the world, you have free
permission to do so, and it is in accordance with your nature,
but perhaps this very holding back is the one
suffering you could have avoided.

Franz Kafka


Those who have suffered, who have known poverty or oppression, are
generally the most prone to kindness. Perhaps it is well to
endure some misery if only to learn this lesson.

Arthur Lynch
Moods of Life


Remember this:  all suffering comes to an end.  And whatever
you suffer authentically, God has suffered from it first.

Meister Eckhart


As you look at many people's lives, you see that their suffering is
in a way gratifying, for they are comfortable in it.  They make
their lives a living hell, but a familiar one.

Ram Dass



Those who recognize the existence of suffering, its cause, its remedy,
and its cessation, have fathomed the four noble truths.
They will walk in the right path.

the Buddha


Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary
graces--Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.

Matthew Henry


If we are suffering illness, poverty, or misfortune, we think
we shall be satisfied on the day it ceases.  But there, too,
we know it is false; so soon as one has got used
to not suffering one wants something else.

Simone Weil

It is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way.  Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements.  "Life" does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life's tasks are very real and concrete.  They form one's destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. . . . When one finds that it is one's destiny to suffer, one will have to accept the suffering as one's task, one's single and unique task. . . . No one can relieve one of the suffering or suffer in that person's place.  Our unique opportunity lies in the way in which we bear our burdens.

For us, as prisoners, these thoughts were not speculations far removed from reality.  They were the only thoughts that could be of help to us.  They kept us from despair, even when there was no chance of coming out of it alive.

Viktor Frankl

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To put it concisely, we suffer when we resist the noble and irrefutable truth of impermanence and death.  We suffer, not because we are basically bad or deserve to be punished, but because of three tragic misunderstandings.

First, we expect that what is always changing should be graspable and predictable.  We are born with a craving for resolution and security that governs our thoughts, words, and actions.  We are like people in a boat that is falling apart, trying to hold on to the water.  The dynamic, energetic, and natural flow of the universe is not acceptable to conventional mind.  Our prejudices and addictions are patterns that arise from the fear of a fluid world.  Because we mistakenly take what is always changing to be permanent, we suffer.

Second, we proceed as if we were separate from everything else, as if we were a fixed identity, when our true situation is egoless.  We insist on being Someone, with a capital S.  We get security from defining ourselves as worthless or worthy, superior or inferior.  We waste precious time exaggerating or romanticizing or belittling ourselves with a complacent surety that yes, that's who we are.  We mistake the openness of our being--the inherent wonder and surprise of each moment--for a solid, irrefutable self.  Because of this misunderstanding, we suffer.

Third, we look for happiness in all the wrong places.  The Buddha called this habit "mistaking suffering for happiness," like a moth flying into the flame.  As we know, moths are not the only ones who will destroy themselves in order to find temporary relief.  In terms of how we seek happiness, we are all like the alcoholic who drinks to stop the depression that escalates with every drink, or the junkie who shoots up in order to get relief from the suffering that increases with every fix.

A friend who is always on a diet pointed out that this teaching would be easier to follow if our addictions didn't offer temporary relief.  Because we experience short-lived satisfaction from them, we keep getting hooked.  In repeating our quest for instant gratification, pursuing addictions of all kinds--some seemingly benign, some obviously lethal--we continue to reinforce old patters of suffering.

Pema Chödrön
The Places That Scare You
Articles and book excerpts on suffering:

Regrets, I Have a Few. . . .      Robert Knowlton

Those who have suffered much are like those who know many languages:
they have learned to understand and be understood by all.

Anne Sophie Swetchine

When someone does not know how to handle his own suffering, one
allows it to spill all over the people around him or her.  When you
suffer, you make people around you suffer.  That's very natural.
This is why we have to learn how to handle our suffering,
so we won't spread it everywhere.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Don't take anything personally because by taking things personally you set
yourself up to suffer for nothing.  Humans are addicted to suffering at different
levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these
addictions.  Humans agree to help each other suffer.  If you have the need to
be abused, you will find it easy to be abused by others.  Likewise, if you are
with people who need to suffer, something in you makes you abuse them.  It is
as if they have a note on their back that says, "Please kick me."  They are asking
for justification for their suffering.  Their addiction to suffering is nothing
but an agreement that is reinforced every day.

Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements


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pain - healing


If you have high self-esteem, you might still know times
of emotional suffering, but less often and with faster
recovery--your resilience is greater.

Nathaniel Branden
Self-Esteem Every Day

Many people put up with a life of suffering because
they feel they deserve no better.


Suffering has always been with us; does it really matter in what form
it comes?  All that matters is how we bear it
and how we fit it into our lives.

Etty Hillesum


We need to be aware of the suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness
and strength so we can help transform the situation.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Teachings on Love


There is an art in taking the whiplash of suffering full in the face,
an art you must learn. Let each single attack exhaust itself; pain always
makes single attacks, so that its bite may be more intense, more concentrated.
And you, while its fangs are implanted and injecting their venom at one spot,
do not forget to offer it another place where it can bite you,
and so relieve the pain of the first.

Cesare Pavese
This Business of Living


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I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught,
all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must
be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness,
and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea

Suffering--how divine it is, how misunderstood!  We owe to it all
that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it
pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues.

Anatole France
The Garden of Epicurus


What is joy without sorrow?  What is success without failure?  What is
a win without a loss?  What is health without illness?  You have to
experience each if you are to appreciate the other.  There is always
going to be suffering.  It’s how you look at your suffering,
how you deal with it, that will define you.

Mark Twain




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