"... in my direct experience, I suffer when I perceive myself as separate from life." Caverly Morgan
We can end suffering by waking up, perceiving reality as it really is, and relating more appropriately towards ourselves & the world.
"We are liberated from suffering by correctly perceiving reality."
From personal experience, we know that when we feel threatened, we become "contracted": physically our muscles tighten; mentally "the world shrinks" we're only concerned about our self or at most, our immediate family; emotionally we feel isolated, alone against a suddenly hostile world. We feel rigid, hardened, "up-tight," "a stranger in a strange land" physically, mentally & emotionally. In this contracted, grimly self-centered, "siege mentality", our actions naturally reflect our immediate outlook on life: "nasty, brutish, & short."
There are many valid reasons why we become contracted - at times. Life presents all of us with some heavy, unavoidable challenges. However, the vast majority of our suffering is completely "discretionary" - completely unnecessary, IF we were interested enough to learn to live more wisely! But we become so thoroughly accustomed to being at least somewhat contracted, that all we may notice is that "life is stressful, but I'm coping as well as most" - "it's just normal stress" - (Freud's) "ordinary unhappiness" - just the normal momentum of my life.
Again from personal experience, we also know that when we feel happy, satisfied, at peace, we become "expansive": physically our muscles relax; mentally "our world expands" our circle of interest & concern spreads far & wide across our one "global village," we entertain big creative nurturing thoughts & intentions to help solve common global problems; emotionally we feel part of & responsible for the entire human family, all living creatures, all of nature. We feel open-hearted, open-minded, at peace, relaxed, thoroughly at home, physically, mentally & emotionally. In this expansive, generous, nurturing mind-set, our actions naturally reflect our true nature: a wise nurturing grandparent who holds themself & all others in safety & unconditional love.
Research also shows that we feel truly happy only when we're fully present; that it’s the quality of our presence, not the external environment, that brings happiness.
Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind.” Science 2010; 330(6006): 932.
Enlightenment has been defined as "intimacy with all things."
Though we all have experienced episodes of expansiveness, for most of us it's a relatively rare, short-lived accident. We have little or no encouragement, guidance or support to learn to inhabit our true expansive nature.
Even for those who learn mindfulness meditation, which is specifically designed to recognize & release contraction, and thereby allow us to naturally embody expansiveness, the momentum of contracted conditioning is so strong that they quickly forget about mindfulness, and resume sleepwalking through life in a contracted state.
“… the main goal in meditation is not to get to certain good
states, but rather to eliminate what gets in the way of those
good states.” Shinzen Young
“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all of the barriers
within yourself that you have built against it.” Helen Schueman
Mindfulness is not for everyone. It takes clarity of mind, courage & perseverance to very gradually, intentionally, progressively let go of habitual patterns, that have us stuck in unhappiness. A very small proportion of us do choose to intentionally mature wisely by way of an ongoing regular mindfulness practice.