Adapted from the "Just One Thing" bulletin
When our suffering is recognised - when we become aware of and embrace its presence - the pain, frustrations, discontentment and even anguish - it is this very step that is needed for reducing and eventually dissolving the suffering.
While we are often more readily able to notice suffering in ourselves, it is not so common that we notice and recognise it in others. We can somehow tune out from the stress, strain, unease and anger in others.
Why is this a problem for us and them?
Each person needs someone to bear witness to and really get their suffering. If their suffering goes unnoticed, it remains an open wound. When we do not recognise the suffering of others it affects us too. We become at odds with the nature of life, our hearts remain closed and small issues grow bigger until they blow up. When we deliberately overlook someone's pain, we may tend to act uncharitably towards them and avoid them - even when they are the one who is suffering.
Watch and listen - notice the suffering in the eyes looking back at you.
As other people's wounds and troubles trickle into our own borders, we can try to just notice - across a dinner table or at work or when walking in the street.
A child who feels like an afterthought
A worker who fears a layoff
A couple caught up in anger
A homeless person feeling helpless
We can notice the weariness, the struggle, the irritability, or the tension. Sense the suffering behind someone's words. Imagine in some detail what it would be like for you to be in their shoes - in small doses like a few seconds, as to not be overwhelmed.
As we open up to the suffering around us, we can bring some happy truths to mind:
There are innumerable upstream causes leading to the present moment of each person - so much complexity, one cannot blame a single factor.
We can face whatever is hurting.
We can face it, even if we are one of its causes.
We can ask questions and talk about the answers.
We can feel more grounded in the truth of things.
More compassion and kindness can go around.
Opening up to suffering brings us closer to others.
Opening up to suffering is brave and rewarding.
Opening up to suffering is needed to stop the suffering.