• In the Buddhist tradition, the four noble truths explain what suffering is, its cause, and how to deal with it. The first truth is that suffering exists and is unavoidable, and the second is that the cause of suffering is our desire, craving or attachment. The third is that suffering can be released if we renounce this attachment, and the fourth truth is that we practice this way of being by following the eight-fold path.
• When we are attached to one outcome or another, the Buddhists claim we cause suffering. It is our perspective, preference, narrative, and expectation about what should be that causes our unhappiness. In life, everything is transient, though, and always changing.
• In the parable of the two monks, we see that resistance is also a form of grasping, and allows us to “carry” suffering with us long after the initial moment has passed.
• In this philosophy, we cannot achieve happiness by trying to remove suffering from life, but rather by changing our attitude to it.
• We can use the four noble truths as a starting point for reducing suffering in our own lives, or rather, learn to suffer better. To do so, we have to understand our own tendency to identify with, cling, resist or tell stories about reality and learn to simply appreciate reality for what it is: neutral and impermanent.
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Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition.
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