The ancient Buddhist teachings about suffering might seem like they have no application to modern-day society, but that’s not true. Many contemporary followers of Buddhism find peace and mindfulness in applying these truths, even to our material world. If you want to become calmer and more present, even in the midst of your busy life, consider learning more about these important ideas of suffering.
The First Noble Truth
The First Noble Truth holds that suffering is simply a part of life. While we all recognize that pain is something we will encounter, you may not be that adept at handling it when it comes your way. That’s why it’s so important to identify the causes of our suffering.
The Second Noble Truth
That all suffering has a cause is the Second Noble Truth. However, Buddhist thought also teaches us that we can control how much we suffer as a result of any particular cause. The first arrow, or the true cause, we cannot control. The second arrow, however – which is our own thoughts and reactions to the first arrow – is something we do have control over. We can make our lives harder or easier by minimizing second arrows.
If you’re feeling pain, spend a minute thinking about what might be causing it: the actual situation, or the thoughts you’re allowing yourself to have in response. When you catch yourself making things worse by catastrophizing or generalizing, talk yourself down and focus on the true problem. If you can’t solve it, recognize that and move on.
The Third Noble Truth
The Third Noble Truth is simple and comforting: there can be an end to the suffering. How, you wonder? That’s the question the Fourth Noble Truth answers.
The Fourth Noble Truth
This truth is simple, and merely claims that we can achieve a cessation of suffering in life (and beyond, if you believe in that sort of thing) by taking appropriate action. The actions we must take are described by the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Many of these are variations on the golden rule … treat others as you would like to be treated. Others are variations on common contemporary advice, which says we should do work that is personally meaningful, give ourselves over to the present and make every effort to live life well. Mindfulness is a particularly popular buzzword these days, but not always one we take seriously enough.
You can bring more mindfulness to your life, however, if you try. Yoga and meditation both have proven benefits to calmness and concentration, and daily ritual helps many to become more mindful. Consider a matcha tea ceremony, for instance. Not only will this help you stay in a positive headspace, it brings a host of cancer-fighting, attention-boosting benefits to your body.
There are many ways to put the Four Noble Truths to work for you, so start by instilling some of the above ideas today to bring a little more peace to your life.