Unlike [physical] pain, suffering is optional. The question is: ‘What’s the best way to reduce or eliminate suffering?’
There’s no one way that works best for everyone. There are a number of methods and the one that is most effective for me may not be the same as the one that is most effective for you.
Any effective method to reduce or eliminate suffering works because it reduces or eliminates attachment to thoughts that we don’t realize are causing us to suffer.
Since all suffering is caused by separation, whatever works to reduce separation automatically works to reduce suffering. This is really good news; nothing except removing what is causing suffering is required. It’s a one-step process.
All separation is caused by beliefs to which we are attached. Thoughts to which we are unattached simply pass away like a breeze through a screen. Thoughts to which we are attached are like the screen itself through which all our experiences must pass. While the air flows through it, the screen itself is rigid and immobile.
Effective methods of reducing suffering dissolve the rigid conceptual frameworks through which our experiences must pass. The direct experience of life is never problematic. The truth, what-is, is never the problem. Instead, problems always come from false beliefs about the truth.
Most often, these are beliefs about ourselves. We misunderstand our true nature. Self-delusion spawns suffering.
Such beliefs cause separation. When we believe what isn’t, obviously there’s a difference between what we think is real and what really is real. That difference is always the cause of suffering.
It’s always unnecessary. There’s nothing forcing us to attach to thoughts that don’t work well. That’s why suffering is optional.
Therefore, if you’re suffering, it’s only because you’re attached to thoughts that are separating you from reality. Since it’s your beliefs that are creating your suffering, by dropping those beliefs it’s possible for you to reduce or eliminate suffering.
So, if you want to reduce your suffering, identify those beliefs that are causing you to suffer and drop them. Doing so successfully is called “spiritual awakening.”
There have been some people who are naturally awake. Such people appear to be few and far between. There are others (like Eckhart Tolle or Byron Katie) who come to awakening by surviving intense suffering. For 80 or 90% of us, however, the way to awakening requires long, difficult spiritual practice or training. [Cf. Steve Taylor’s The Leap.]
Although there is some kind of spiritual practice or training that will work effectively for you, there’s no way in advance to predict which one it might be.
If you are seeking to reduce or eliminate your suffering, I encourage you to consider “the work” by Byron Katie. It’s an easy-to-understand, original method for neutralizing those beliefs that are creating your suffering.
If you’d like to learn more about it by reading, I suggest her Loving What Is. If you want her to coach you, there’s a $6000 program (excluding transportation) available. Better news is that everything required is available for free on her website thework.com.
This may be the best method for increasing practical wisdom for most people I’ve ever encountered. (By using ‘practical’ I’m distinguishing it from the kind of academic or theoretical wisdom usually taught by philosophy professors in western universities.) Any normal human being can quickly learn it and begin to practice it.
Naturally, it’s a process of examining beliefs. It’s an exercise in everyday epistemology, in learning to question seriously beliefs that we don’t realize are creating suffering.
It’s misleading to think that examining or inquiring well will enable you to drop those malevolent beliefs. It’s more accurate to think that realizing the truth dissolves those beliefs without further effort.
The method consists of five steps, namely, seriously answering four questions and then neutralizing those answers by turning them around. It’s a process that, with practice, soon becomes more and more automatic.
Might your learning and practicing it result in reducing or eliminating your suffering? Yes.
Will it? There’s no way to know in advance. Since you have the opportunity to learn and practice it for free, why don’t you find out for yourself?
If your degree of suffering is still tolerable, you won’t bother. If, though, it is becoming increasingly intolerable, by drawing your attention to it I may here have offered you a way to wisdom, a practical path to living well.
The quality of your life is solely up to you. Why not make the best of it?