I agree with Buddhists and the Christians, there will be suffering in life. The Buddha, teaching on the Four Noble truths, states in the first truth that there is suffering in life. Christians, throughout Scripture and history, have suffered with Christ crucified.
Suffering takes many forms, but we may be familiar with some of them: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, low self-image, implusivity, addiction, chronic pain, angst, disillusionment, failure, perfectionism, restlessness, boredom, etc., etc.
Everyone does, suffer. Do we talk openly about our suffering and admit our humanness? No, usually we don’t. This is the problem with individual, and even community, adversity. We go it alone thinking we are the only ones who are walking down a lonely, often painful road of suffering. Of course this is nonsense, as the road of suffering is a well-worn road that humanity has tread for thousands upon thousands of years.
As we live our lives and we run into challenges, how do we ultimately have resilient outcomes, where we bounce back and do well?
Today, I am adding a few more thoughts to my last post on things you can do to stay strong before, during, and adversity. While I have the individual in mind in creating this list, I think the list is applicable to our communities as well, scaled accordingly.
There is a particular verse in the Sacred Scripture that reads, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”
As a father, I have leaned on this verse. I do so because it speaks of balance, and balance is important in life. Buddhism emphasizes the “middle way.” The great philosophers speak of virtue as the middle between excess. Within the deep places, one will find balance as important in mitigating suffering in life.
Therefore, may we consider these four points in establishing balance in our lives:
- Wisdom: learn something new every day, challenge yourself mentally. Lean on the advice of trusted elders. Sit with elders and share your story, perhaps your pain, and listen to them.
- Stature: walk, walk a lot. Get out there and walk every day. Or run. Or swim. Practice yoga or cross fit, or hike, or stand up paddle board. Move your body.
- Spiritual: get involved in your faith-wisdom tradition. Own it. Pray. Meditate. Spend time in nature. Go to church. Give. Help. Serve. Read ancient writing.
- Social: spend time in quality relationship. It takes time, energy, and effort to invest in relationship. But the dividends are happiness and health. Remember, self-reliance is formed in the objective crucible of community.
In addition, here are a few other adaptive coping strategies for dealing with adversity:
- Involve yourself in positive distracting activities when you are really stressed
- Take breaks when you need to take breaks. Listen to you body, check in.
- Socialize with family and friends. Life is lived in community.
- Talk about it, whatever you are going through.
- Get adequate rest and sleep.
- Humor, learn to lighten up and laugh; especially at yourself.
- Exercise regularly. Move your body.
- Journal your thoughts and emotions.
- Think positive thoughts; as my mother says, “no stinking thinking.”
- If you need to go pro, go pro, get counseling; no shame in this.
- Get information about what you are going through, study up.
- Speak with a trusted spiritual advisor or confidant.
- Tell your family what you’re going through, talk with them, help them to understand.
- Normalize your experience, you are not alone, and your suffering is normal.
- Concentrate on creating positive cascades.
- Keep a gratitude journal, be thankful and grateful and write it down.
- Understand that you will be okay. Really, you will.
What prompted me to write this post today is thinking about one of my students who was suffering. They thought they were alone, that something was wrong with them. They had been carrying pain for many years. As I listened to my student, I was heartbroken for them, but wanted them to know more than anything that they were not alone, that we all experience pain and suffering and, usually, we all pull through and do okay. This is a normal part of the human life experience.