Let's start with the quote from MPR's show- On Being last week.
I always like to say: Buddhism is engaged realism. Because they say that Buddha himself discovered the nature of reality, completely understood it fully and totally and also understood that other beings could do so and also understood that only by such discovery can you find freedom from that suffering. If you really know the reality, then you will be free of the suffering was his real innovative teaching, which has lasted now for thousands of years. So realism, being realistic, is the key, you know. (Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University.)I reacted very positively to it when I first heard it so I went and dug up the quote from the transcript. Then I looked at it a little longer and started to question it.
On Being. --Link
"So, if I am realistic," I said to myself, "I won't suffer?"
That's what it says. Realism? Being realistic will take away the pain?
Wait, that's not what it says. It says you won't suffer. Hurt, ache, be in pain- those are some of the synonyms found online for "suffer."
Then I realized that it's not talking about physically experiencing pain, hurt, etc. It's talking about suffering that comes as the result of the pain. I then remembered one of those statements you often hear around 12-Step meetings:
Pain is common; suffering is optional.Doh! That's what it's about, of course. When one is realistic it means that one has a sensible, grounded understanding of what is expected- and what isn't. When one is realistic we understand boundaries and limits.
Which, as usual, brings things for me back around to the Serenity Prayer. It is where I must always go if I am to maintain balance and acceptance in my life. Get out of the unrealistic expectations that happen when I fall back into my self-centered thinking. The result will be wisdom- and the suffering- the angst- will not have it's impact on me.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.