Unhappy thoughts, unfulfilled desires, physical challenges, loss, disappointment, fear, depression or stress - the endless challenges that punctuate every life.
Suffering can dominate us and become so overwhelming that the only release we can imagine is to dull the pain in any way possible, or even consider leaving our life.
But do we have to suffer?
Of course there is no escaping our life experiences and when these are difficult or traumatic, they are accompanied by suffering. Eventually the suffering will drive us inward in search of answers. We try to make sense of it all, and this can lead to an awakening within us - a discovery of a deeper dimension to who we are.
It usually happens that the first experiences of this are like brief moments of release, as if we step out of ourselves, into a place that is not the physical self.
This 'place' is somehow also one step removed from our thoughts and feelings. It has a quality of stillness that is behind our day to day life experience.
Once we have had a first taste of this we want it again. We want to experience it more often and more deeply.
In the early stages of this 'awakening' our difficult thoughts, emotions and feelings continue to arise strongly and still take us over. When this happens we find ourselves already immersed in them, but now we know there is a way out. In time, through repeated trips through the process of getting taken over and then waking out of suffering, we come to a point when we begin to automatically 'sense' our suffering as it comes over the horizon. Then, rather than being unknowingly captured by it, we learn how to prevent it from taking us over. We recognise what is there, become aware of it, allow it to be, but use that moment as a trigger to step back into stillness.
This action gradually becomes a habit - a conscious mental habit. We say to our self - ah, here it goes - there it is - but I'm not getting into that - instead I'm going to retreat from it and watch it from the stillness of my inner self.
As we become more and more able to do this and our connection to stillness grows, the sizzling energy of bad memories, regret, fear and all suffering, begins to lose its strength and hold on us. Eventually they become feeble and unable to pull us in.
This is liberation - and complete freedom from suffering.