What Is Suffering?

Sep 03, 2023

What is Suffering? And why should we learn how to free ourselves from it?

The pain or fear of loss. The frustration or disappointment when expectations are not met. Feelings of loneliness, a sense of not belonging. Guilt. Inadequacy. Anger. Anxiety. And jealousy. All these are different forms of suffering. 

Suffering is an inner experience of discomfort. A sense of unease, be it with yourself, your circumstances, with another person, or even all life. Any type of mental or emotional stress. It is the lack of peace within. A nagging feel, an inner itch that does not allow you to relax into the moment. 

Over centuries, various philosophers have described suffering in many different ways. Sometimes it has also been used to describe physical problems or challenges like sickness, failure. financial hardships, natural disasters, and death or loss. 

However, at Inner Freedom Global, when we use the term suffering, we primarily refer to the inner experience of stress, unease or discomfort. While it may not be possible to live without challenges and problems, we believe it is possible to live without suffering. We may not be able to stop it from arising, but we can learn how to set ourselves free from it. 

For instance, problems like sickness or failure can lead to suffering, where we experience stressful emotions like anger, anxiety or sadness. With the right wisdom and appropriate effort, we can learn how to free ourselves from the stressful emotions we experience within, even as we work externally to find solutions to the problems that confront us. 


So, how does this apply to me? 

Take a few moments to reflect on your life. Think of various instances when you may have felt a sense of unease within. Perhaps there were times when you felt angry, inadequate or inferior about yourself. When you thought you weren’t good enough or compared yourself with another, felt superior or inferior, had self-doubts and lacked confidence. Or occasions when you found it hard to forgive yourself, when you were torn with guilt or regret. 

Or you could think of instances when you felt discomfort in your relationships. Maybe there were times you felt lonely even though you were surrounded by friends. Or instances when you felt betrayed, abandoned or unaccepted. Or you could think about some painful events you had to face. At home or at work. And the consequent stress you experienced within. 

All these are experiences of suffering. They are instances when you lacked inner peace. 

Now ask yourself - what if you had known how to get back to peace in such instances? Especially if you had known how to do it more quickly, without the disturbance lingering or building, without being stuck in them for unnecessary lengths of time. 

Imagine a life where you wouldn’t have to wait for your situations to change in order to feel calm or peaceful inside, a life where you wouldn’t have to depend on someone else to make you happy. All you have to do is take the time to go within, set yourself free, get back to peace and then handle your circumstances with intelligence. Wouldn't you like to live such a life? Don’t you think you deserve it? 


Is freedom from suffering possible for me? 

The good news is, you don’t have to be a monk in a faraway monastery in order to experience inner freedom. It doesn’t require years of meditation or a drastic change in your lifestyle. 

What it does require is your willingness, a path that works, and consistent effort. So the questions you must ask yourself are:  


  1. Are you ready to heal, to open your heart to peace, love and joy? Are you ready to let go of all forms of suffering, and experience happiness and fulfillment like you have never known before? 
  2. Do you have a comprehensive path that works? Do you have a process that you could use every time you suffer? If you do not have a path or a process, do you know someone who has it and can teach you? 
  3. Are you willing to put in the required effort, not just once or twice, but everytime you suffer? Is your well being a priority and are you ready to take consistent action? 

See, you cannot go to the gym for a single day and expect to have a toned body for the rest of your life. You cannot show up in an office just for one day and expect to be paid for the rest of your life. It is the same when it comes to your inner world. You have to prioritize your well-being, your own peace and happiness, and put in the required effort day after day. 

If your answer to all the 3 questions above is yes, then freedom from suffering, in every form, is possible. 


Why should I free myself from suffering?

Let’s say you see an infant crying. It is likely that you would want them to stop crying and feel calm again. And if there is anything you could do to help, it is likely that you would. This is natural for most of us, right? So, why would you want anything different for yourself? If you find yourself feeling agitated or uncomfortable, why wouldn’t you want to do whatever you can to free yourself so you can be calm again? Not in unhealthy ways, of course. If you knew a wise way to attend to your inner discomfort, suffering and stress, why wouldn’t you do it? 

Besides, if you allow suffering to build within, it can lead to consequences that are not beneficial for you, for the people you love, and for the larger society. If you reflect on your life and the lives of people around you, you would see that the states of being we go through and the emotional habits we form tends to determine our actions, and consequently our destiny. 

Therefore, if we want to create a great destiny, it is imperative we bring attention to our inner experiences, become mindful of what we go through, learn how to free ourselves from suffering, as well as nurture wholesome, inclusive and constructive states of being. 

So, the next time you are in suffering, take a few moments and ask yourself these questions: Do I want to be free? Do I know how to set myself free? Am I willing to persist until I am free?