It is our tendency in the West to try and ignore, deny, and eradicate suffering. Various forms of intolerance keep appearing in our communities as their own specialized forms of suffering that arise out of suffering. If I grow up and “learn” in one way or another to be afraid of and to treat as “other than” people who are dark skinned, then I am apt to treat people of color with intolerance, an intolerance that arises out of my own fear, my own suffering.
There is a different kind of intolerance, though–the kind that does not run away from suffering, but which confronts it, refusing to allow this insidious cycle to keep regenerating more pain out of pain, more suffering out of suffering.
“Taking suffering seriously is an important element of Buddhist practice. To ignore it is to miss a powerful opportunity. Intolerance to suffering motivated the Buddha to find liberation from it.” *
To find a way out of suffering, the Buddha taught that we must not run away from it, but embrace it, befriend it, acknowledge what is, right now, and let go of the past and the future, for neither truly exists. Working with my suffering in this moment might sound something like this: “I am anxious right now because I am around people who are different from me. I have been taught not to trust them, but I really don’t know them. I can look into those eyes and see my eyes. I can let go of what I was told and be here now, get to know this person now, breath with this person, now.”
If I choose to be intolerant to suffering that arises in me by embracing it, what I have known as a loss becomes a kind of harvest. Do you suffer today? Is it your potential harvest?
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*Gil Fronsdal, Living Two Traditions