Aware of Suffering

Gil Fronsdal wrote the wonderful words of wisdom for us to be aware of suffering in Tricycle Magazine recently. He has been practicing in the Soto Zen and Vipassana traditions since 1985 and guides the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California.

I have read many of his articles and met him one day several years ago at a lecture given by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

This particular quote caught my eye because he talks about being aware of suffering. This struck me as an important theme in our current civilization where many things seem to be going “bump in the night.” The carbon dioxide levels are extremely high. We are destroying rainforests faster that I thought humanly possible. Hunger and fresh water supplies are especially limited in third-world countries, and forest fires are burning out of control all over the place all year long.

Being aware of suffering is fourth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing. It states,

Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help us develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, we are determined not to avoid or close our eyes before suffering. We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact, images, and sounds, to be with those who suffer, so we can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace, and joy.

Intolerance Towards Suffering | May 9, 2014

The subtle suffering in our lives may seem unimportant. But if we attend to the small ways that we suffer, we create a context of greater ease, peace, and responsibility, which can make it easier to deal with the bigger difficulties when they arise. Being intolerant of suffering, in the Buddhist sense, does not mean that we reject it or fight against it. It means that we stop and look at it, not morbidly, but with faith in the possibility of living a joyful and peaceful life.

—Gil Fronsdal, “Living Two Traditions”

 Gil Fronsdal


The quote from Gil Fronsdal ties into the Fourth Mindfulness training because both tell us not to ignore suffer but to look “with faith in the possibility of living a joyful and peaceful life.

What are your thoughts about suffering and the awareness of suffering?

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