The Buddha in his statements on the Four Noble Truths used a Pali word that is often translated into English as suffering. This translation, however, may be eliciting associations of torment and painful experiences. I prefer the translation of the word as unsatisfactoriness. I believe that this translations better captures not only suffering but also the everyday unhappiness and unease with experience.
Regardless of our translation it is important to realize that we spend a good deal of our lives either truly suffering but more likely just finding most everything unsatisfactory. I frequently go out for walks and as I pass neighbors I might smile and remark about what a wonderful day it is. The response is frequently something like yeah but there are storms on the way, or it’s better than the terrible cold we’ve been experiencing. Somehow, rather than focusing on how beautiful things are right now, the person turns the conversation to something unsatisfactory.
Basically this reveals an important understanding of the nature of our minds. They are programmed to find flaws. From an evolutionary standpoint this is very useful. It helps us foresee problems before they happen and potentially prevent them. But, from the standpoint of our inner peace, they are very disruptive. How can we ever find satisfactoriness when our minds are programmed to find unsatisfactoriness?
The problem resides in the fact that we can’t accept things to as they are. Every time that we want things to be different than they are we suffer. It’s a universal law. Let me repeat, every time that we want things to be different than they are we suffer.
If we accept this, the solution is evident. If we don’t want to suffer, we simply need to accept things as they are. We simply need to stop trying to change reality into something we’d like better. Once we accept things as they are we can begin to see that how things are, is perfectly alright, nothing is really wrong, it’s only our desire that they be different that is the problem.
This simple statement turns out to be devilishly difficult to execute. We’re working against the programming of our minds. That’s where contemplative practice can be extraordinarily helpful. By learning to quiet the mind, we can learn to allow things to be as they are. It takes practice, lots of practice, but it can be the key to ending suffering.
So, practice accepting things as they are and end the unsatisfactoriness with your life, ending suffering, just as the Buddha promised.