Avoid Future Suffering… In a Wholesome Way

Heyam duhkham anagatam | Prevent the suffering that is yet to come.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali tells us that future suffering can be avoided (II.16). In fact, he tell us that future suffing is to be avoided. Upon reading that, I immediately thought of one of Mark Twain’s sayings: “I have had many worries in my life, most of which have never happened.”

This touches on our human nature to pre-occupy ourselves with some future event, particularly if it is an anticipated unpleasant one (that bad work holiday gift exchange?).

Although different yet similar, the Buddha teaches us that pain or discomfort is inevitable; it is the suffering that is optional. This takes it a little further. The Buddha is telling us that not only does pre-occupying ourselves with a future outcome pose unpleasantness or discomfort (because we can’t control the outcome), but the story and importance we put on it adds suffering.

The sutra interpretation goes on to say that if we fill our present moment with the suffering of the future, we suffer twice. I like to say that we suffer unnecessarily.

Now what? Whenever you notice yourself getting worried/anxious/worked up about a future event, come back to your breath. When you ground yourself in the present moment, you’ll realize that you are safe, all is well and as it should be.


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