• Juan Jose Reyes M.D.

Wish to suffer less? Try accepting

“When we know how to suffer, we suffer much less.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

Probably the first thing we think when reading this quote is “ I would prefer not to suffer at all!” . Mindfulness is about acceptance.

Many times during our meditation the thought of "I’m not doing it right" comes up and soon after that we tend to label the meditation session as not a good one and not accepting what it is or as it is in that particular moment. This is very common and happens to all of us, that’s why mindfulness requires long-term practice. Mindfulness requires long term practice, not just to change certain areas of the brain but also to be fully understood. And part of the understanding of mindfulness is accepting. Accepting ourselves , accepting our bodies , accepting our life as it is. Accepting that we are imperfect human beings , we all make mistakes, We all struggle and we all do the best we can.

Mindfulness brings awareness to all the things that are going on in our lives and in our bodies, and with that awareness comes the recognition many times that we are suffering. The acceptance component of mindfulness includes accepting the suffering that we’re going through. By accepting our suffering we change our relationship with it and as a result we can alleviate it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Our suffering changes just by observing it and by accepting it. This is a very hard thing to do. And that’s why mindfulness requires a long time to be fully understood and why it is more a lifestyle or a way of being rather than a technique.

And because mindfulness changes the brain we see practicing meditation as the same thing as going to the gym for the brain. Sitting in meditation is exercising and developing the areas of the brain that allows us to be more responsive rather than reactive, more compassionate with ourselves and with everyone else . Sitting in meditation leads to a better brain. Would you go to the gym just five minutes a day?

Sitting every day is hard, but not knowing how to suffer is even harder. Most of our suffering comes from ourselves, either from the thoughts that we create when we don’t have what we want or from not accepting what we have. With mindfulness we introduce a very important element as we deal with our suffering and that element is compassion: compassion for ourselves and compassion for our own suffering, and when we bring compassion to our suffering we then are able to start the process of alleviating it and start enjoying our lives.