Ep. 63: Being Human is Hard – the First Noble Truth

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How many of you think life can often be a little…difficult?  Yeah, me too. But what I’ve found is that when I stop resisting that life can be hard sometimes, and when I stop thinking something has gone terribly wrong just because things aren’t easy or I’m not happy, then I can start embracing life more fully and savor the good times even more. Today I want to talk about how while being a human is hard, accepting that truth can be to our advantage.

When the Buddha first taught, he could have taught anything, right? He had just woken up completely and his mind was free. The interesting thing is that at first, out of all the options he could have mentioned first – buddha nature, clarity, nirvana, bliss, and more (all those things many of us aim for in meditation or yoga practice) – he chose to talk about suffering.

The way I have learned to see this is that he chose to talk about how being a human is hard.

This concept is important to grasp because while it may initially seem like a bummer to focus on, if we are to free our minds – and therefore our lives – we can’t keep resisting reality. And we need to recognize the pain in our lives so we can acknowledge that this too, is a part of life.

Dukkha is a Pali word often translated as “suffering.”  Our lives are entwined and characterized by dukkha, meaning our mental experiences of discomfort, pain, stress, instability, inadequacy, failure, and disappointment – each of which is felt as suffering in our mind.

This teaching is also often referred to as the “Truth of Suffering,” and in it there are three kinds of suffering:

The first is the obvious suffering caused by physical discomfort (from minor pains to injuries and chronic disease) and emotional suffering, like being frustrated that things don’t go your way, or being worried about meeting others’ expectations or about what they think about you.

The second suffering is caused by the fact that life is constantly changing.  The impermanent nature of things. An example is when something awesome happens, eventually something challenging happens and that joy ends…albeit temporarily. And we have a lot of suffering when things change – when our happiness fades, when we lose people we love, when we have to move on before we’re ready.

We can’t escape from this. It is an impersonal, universal truth of life. It’s not just happening to you. None of us gets to be an exception. We all feel pain, we all lose loved ones, we all get sick, and we all die.

The third type of suffering the Buddha identified is a sort of existential angst due to life’s intrinsic instability. This is a type of suffering we’re most likely not to recognize, yet the one we can learn the most from when we do.

It’s the general background of anxiety and insecurity that hangs in the background of even our happiest moments. Deep down, we fear that life doesn’t offer us solid ground and that our very existence is questionable. A good example of this is how often in your adult life have you experienced the queasiness and unease that come from a sense of meaninglessness in your life? Or that you aren’t living your purpose? That.

Some people think that if we acknowledge suffering is part of life then we call more of it in. They think that we will manifest more of it because we will acknowledge it and it will be in our mind. But I’ve found the opposite is true. When we deny that being human is hard and hard shit does happen, we spend all this time wondering, “Why me? Why now?” and we spend a lot of time feeling guilty or ashamed or confused or wishing it weren’t so and fighting reality. And all that does is manifest more suffering.

The take-home here is that while being a human is hard and that pain is inescapable, suffering is an experience of the mind. This teaching isn’t offering us complete relief from pain, unlike the false promises of advertisements or our consumerist society. Rather, it’s offering us relief from the mental reactivity that causes our mental suffering, our emotional suffering.

And I don’t know about you, but I want me somma that!

It’s important to remember there is a difference between the pain of life and our reaction to it. And when we can embrace the reality that being human is hard, we can then stop resisting it and we can start to live more fully.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

// How we are wasting time, money and energy trying to avoid suffering at all costs
// Why there is nothing wrong when things go bad
// What possibly behind those days when you’re in a funk and don’t know why
// 3 tools you can use to make peace with the challenge of being a human in a body
// How to live life more fully by embracing reality instead of fighting it


// Check out Episode 60 on avoiding unnecessary suffering and the “second arrow”

// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.

// If you’re interested in finding out more about how to free your mind and free your life, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into ways to cultivate clarity and courage so you can create your best life. There are also some sweet bonus courses for you there. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com