To accept and not identify with suffering means just suffering and being OK with it. While this might dull the hurting and make it bearable, why suffer at all? This question comes from the standpoint of someone who still suffers. My question is why suffer at all? Suffering is optional…because we do it to ourselves. It is mentally created and if we stop creating it, we cease suffering.
I find that this is a trap that my Buddhist friends sometimes fall into. Any teaching could have this trap, but I tend to see it most with Buddhists (and Zen). As this is the case, I would like to point out that the Buddha pointed out in the Four Noble Truths that suffering can cease. This was not metaphorical…it is literal. Suffering can end.
If suffering can end, then why would accepting and not identifying with it be enough for anyone? This is like getting a splinter in your finger and just saying “I accepted it and do not identify with it” and so you just leave the splinter in the finger. Perhaps it festers and gets infected. Perhaps it gets so bad that the finger must be amputated. All good…I have accepted it and do not identify with it! What?
In a way, this becomes denial or escapism. It also hinders wise action. Who would allow a splinter to stay, get infected, and still do nothing about it until the finger is amputated? That would be silly. You would do something about the splinter that is still causing hurt and harm. Wise action would be to get the splinter out and be done with it.
Likewise, if you are still suffering…you should delve into suffering. If you clearly see the delusion and remove ignorance, then suffering would cease. It is still good to accept it and not identify with it, but don’t leave it to fester and cause further harm. Anger, fear/anxiety, guilt, etc., if fairly recurring or constant (i.e. chronic), puts stress on the body and produces chemicals in the body that harms it over the long run. Chronic suffering causes harm to the body. We always hear stress is a major danger to health and the immune system. Guess what, stress is suffering.
Suffering is totally mentally created…and a burden we put on ourselves. If you believe you should be able to keep something, then you are denying certainties of life…like impermanence/changeability and lack of control over how and when things change. You could accept the attachment and somehow convince yourself you are not identified with it, but you still will suffer when that thing leaves, breaks, or otherwise is no more. As long as you stick with the belief that you should be able to keep something…and stick with the idea that trying to hold on will some how keep it around…then the attachment will remain and cause suffering when the thing is no more. However, if you delve into it and clearly see the futility of trying to hold on that which changes…the new understanding may free you of the attachment.
Let’s take this from another angle.
You can try not to identify with the attachment, but attachment itself is identification. Suffering is often very much the same way. You can try to not identify with suffering, but suffering itself is identification. When we are attached to our car…we identify with our car. When someone crashes into our parked car, we may be angry or sad or whatever…we feel a loss. That is suffering. You can try to say you don’t identify with the suffering (the anger, sadness, sense of loss, etc.)…but the source of this suffering is identification with the car. If you were not invested in the car (it’s mine…and identifying with the car, like this Mercedes reflects my status)…then it would not cause suffering when it was wrecked.
You can try to accept the attachment and suffering, but the suffering itself is non-acceptance of what is. The Mercedes was wrecked by another car crashing into it. That is what happened…the wrecked Mercedes is what-is in this moment. Not accepting this is also what is causing suffering. Suffering is often a denying or repelling of what-is. If you could accept that the car is now wrecked, then what suffering is there? The very fact that the wrecked car is not accepted is what is causing suffering.
So when asked, “isn’t it enough to accept and not to identify with suffering?” I could say, there is suffering because you have not accepted what-is and there is suffering because you are still identifying with some loss (be it real, imagined, past, present, or future).