HSEP37: Is suffering really an illusion? Yes, but...

Is Suffering really an illusion?

Well, let’s play with some follow-up questions:

  • Is suffering an illusion if the person who is suffering - is also an illusion?
  • If a character in a movie is suffering, is their suffering an illusion?
  • If I suffer in my dream as I sleep, and I’m suffering over something that’s not really happening, is that suffering an illusion?
  • In my dream as I sleep, am “I” suffering? Or, is the character of me in the dream suffering?
Two more playful questions.
  • If I’m suffering over the title of this post/video, meaning, “I’m offended that someone might suggest that suffering is an illusion,” is my suffering really about what I - think/imagine - it’s about (the post or video)?
  • Or, is my suffering to suffer over my thinking / imagination?
Before we get too lost in the weeds on this, let’s quickly clarify these two words, illusion and suffering, in the context that I’m using them.
  • ILLUSION: Something that appears to be real and true, but is not. Real and true, in the context of being based or grounded in reality; reality behind and beyond the mind’s imagination about reality.
  • SUFFERING: A painful emotional state that is characterized by the fearful opposition to what appears to be happening. The emotional distress is always rooted in the fear of losing one's sense of self, or sense of personal identity, which is why suffering is often felt like a form of dying in varying degrees.
To make the case that "suffering is an illusion," and I just want to add this is all incredibly playful for me and not serious, there are two aspects that are illusionary, and one aspect that is not.

  • ILLUSION 1: "The fearful opposition to what appears to be happening." As I examine my experience of suffering, what I recognize is that I'm not opposing reality, I'm opposing my thoughts about reality. My thoughts are imagination, and sometimes that imagination looks like reality, but still, looking like reality is not reality, it's an illusion. My suffering is responding to the illusions I create about reality.
  • ILLUSION 2: "Fear of losing one's sense of self." Again, to examine my experiences of suffering, it always revolves around "who I think I am." I'm suffering over 'what I think is happening to me.' Yet, this 'me' is a character I create in the mind. The more deeply I examine what's really happening, beyond the stories I tell, I see that in reality... there is nothing happening to what I really am. Or, maybe better stated as, I'm taking something personally that's not really personal. The 2nd illusion is "who I think I am." It's this character that suffers, this illusion of me that suffers. The reality of what I am, does not suffer, has never suffered; I simply have dreams of myself suffering.
  • NOT ILLUSION (Reality) 3: Yes, there is the experience that we call suffering. Just as there is the experience of being wet, or being hungry. There is the reality of emotion, there is the reality of a human being experiencing him/herself. There is the reality of perceiving, such as the reality of what I am looking at life, circumstance, and telling stories about it.

Common misperceptions about what I’m suggesting.
  1. “It’s wrong to suffer,” or that “we should not suffer.”
    • No, I'm not saying that. This has nothing to do with what the mind 'thinks' is right or wrong, or the imagined "should or should nots."
  2. “Because suffering is an illusion, it’s not valuable”
    • Nope, not saying that either. The experience of suffering is very much part of the human experience, and it serves as an important teacher. To resist, or reject suffering, only creates more suffering.
  3. “Other people’s suffering is an illusion”
    • This is an important one. In everything I share or talk about, I'm only speaking to my direct experience. I understand that it can 'sound like' I'm talking about you, or other people. Really, though, I'm only talking to myself and about myself. My thoughts about other people are not really about other people, that's another illusion. I can only see my own direct experience, no one else's. Therefore, everyone else is free to see what they see. I'm simply sharing what I see because it's so incredibly beautiful and freeing in my direct experience.
Okay, I feel this is a great start for this topic. I’ll dive deeper into this during the live broadcast! Join me live, or enjoy the replay.