My second meditation session was about self-cherishing or as us mere mortals might refer to it, being self-centred.
Our teacher explained that all human beings want to be free from suffering, and that no human being wants to be free from suffering more than any other.
So why should our suffering be any more important than anyone else’s? Why do we think we’re inherently more important than anyone else?
We always think our suffering is worse because it’s happening to us. If our car is stolen it can feel like the end of the world, but if our neighbour’s car is stolen, it’s a shame, awful even, but they’ll deal with it and life will go on and we don’t really bother ourselves with it.
I had trouble with this concept. Even though logically you can’t really argue against it. My trivial daily disappointments in no way compare with the suffering of a child in Syria or soldiers in Iraq, but I couldn’t help thinking that if I didn’t believe I was important, then who would? If I’m not the most important thing in my own life, then how am I of any consequence at all?
Surely you can’t bring a child up thinking that they are not important, nor is their suffering. They would grow up with terribly low self-esteem. Wouldn’t they?
As Aibileen, the maid, says to the little girl she looks after in the film The Help, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” Grammatical errors aside, this seems to me to be a good mantra to emphasise to a small child. That they are important, not that they are not.
But I can still understand that for most adults, trying to understand their suffering in the context of greater suffering is sensible and could help us to be calmer and more content.
We were supposed to meditate on the fact that our suffering wasn’t any greater than anyone else’s, but I have to admit I wasn’t in the mood that day.
Here’s why. Continue reading