Note: the blue italics indicates the teacher, in black other participants.

Necessary suffering and unnecessary suffering

Vigilance is indispensable to avoid unnecessary suffering. When you’re in body consciousness, you feel immediately when you’re about to go into unnecessary suffering because it creates tension in the body. I’m not talking about muscle tension, it is something more subtle.

Each time you welcome a necessary suffering, there is a transformation process and it strengthens and nourishes body consciousness and divided attention. This is not necessarily very clear in the beginning because it’s progressive. After some time, perhaps a year or two, the real world becomes very visible.

It settles and it affirms itself over time.

It becomes an evidence. I would also like to mention the bonus. When you work on yourself well, after some time, you win a bonus which clears some small mistakes. But it must be earned.

As long as I have allowed self-pity I could not accommodate the necessary suffering. It finally had to make the decision to stop engaging in self-pity to be in body consciousness and welcome the necessary suffering.

I want to say something that everyone already knows, but I need to say it to hear myself say it. The welcoming of the necessary suffering kills reactivity and allows some existential relaxation and equanimity.

Necessary suffering is necessarily only with yourself. When our suffering is linked to another, in our thoughts, in our judgment, or an angry emotion for example, it is unnecessary suffering. Unnecessary suffering turns around in circles; when someone has thoughts circling, he can be sure he is in unnecessary suffering.

Dying to one’s self is to stop recycling unnecessary suffering and welcoming the necessary suffering. It is a change in taking responsibility. It is taking responsibility and acknowledging that it is you who have built your past, and now must move into an existential shared responsibility. Instead of serving your ego, it’s your ego that comes in the service of life.

During previous discussions, we have pointed to the difference between accepting a constraint and welcoming necessary suffering. Can you say more?

Accepting a difficulty is not necessarily welcoming a necessary suffering. It depends on your attitude and context.

A classic example might be that you’re in a relationship, and that you stay with your wife by claiming that your resignation is necessary suffering. In reality, it may be or it may be unnecessary suffering and you’re just afraid to leave.

The interesting point is that it is only you who can know. From the outside, one cannot know. It is impossible and unnecessary to point to the other.

It is not possible to be in body consciousness and to accept a constraint that is not a necessary suffering.

That may be the difference between submit or accept, as we may submit to a superior.

With necessary suffering, there is humility.

Necessary suffering takes courage, but no real effort. When in effort, to hold, to persevere, it’s probably unnecessary suffering. With necessary suffering, the hardest part is to get started, to face one’s fear.

What needs to be done when the other does things contrary to common sense, and in addition it impacts other people who you love?

You can do nothing but accept, welcoming your powerlessness. In welcoming the necessary suffering, you transform yourself and that’s all you can do.

But why? I thought nevertheless that with a little time, they would understand.

If you have the illusion that others will change, will understand, you must drop the illusion. It doesn’t work.

Let’s talk about the transformation following the welcoming of the necessary suffering.

For me, the clearest is in stopping procrastination. Whenever I welcome the suffering needed instead of procrastinating like before, I feel the strength growing in me.

I see the necessary suffering as a solvent. It’s like having clogged neural circuits, impassable, and thanks to the solvent, they open.

The image that comes to mind is that of tangled cords and that must be unraveled. It goes from the most complex to the simplest. And I feel that this complexity is less present in my life, but in my dreams it comes with mazes for example. But when I wake up, I’m glad this is no longer my daily reality.

In your dreams, there are simply images or emotions too?

It’s like a nightmare without emotion.

So it validates the transformation. It shows that you can tackle complex problems without solution and without “real” nightmares.

I’m glad to hear that because I also have dreams that should be emotionally involving, but do not. So nightmares without emotions. I was missing the key to understanding I have now.

Nightmares without emotions prove that one has passed an important step in this work: it shows that the emotional center is in good health.

To P.: What can you tell us of your mental activity when you are in body consciousness?

P.: Thoughts are still there, but first, some forms of thoughts do not appear at all. Then there are thoughts to which I am not attached.

Does that mean that you are more detached?


Me too. And when a thought comes, it goes up to a point, but beyond that, it is no longer compatible with body consciousness and it stops.

In fact, when I talk about something being in body consciousness, it no longer comes from the mind but more from the belly.

Before, I anticipated my words, I was preparing with many thoughts before speaking.

We talked about unnecessary suffering and necessary suffering. There was a big frustration for me at a time because I knew I was in unnecessary suffering, but I could not do anything. I could not get out, until I realized that what was missing was body consciousness.

Now it’s behind you?

Yes but I’m afraid it could come back in the future.

This issue disappears when you are in body consciousness.

Beneath this there is an expectation of permanence, an attachment.

Another illusion to let go. And if you considered body consciousness as ever temporary, impermanent?

It’s a big trap, this attachment to permanence of this consciousness. I also feel that I want to find THE answer.

Yes, that’s a trap. Instead, you must develop your body consciousness to be always here and now. It is constantly renewed. And if you lose it, you cannot do anything other than wait for it to come back and check what you did to lose it – or what you did not, as such, not having welcomed a necessary suffering.

But we can still do something, such as mobilizing body consciousness?

If you manage to do so.

Accepting the necessary suffering is probably the only way that we have to regain body consciousness.

Are you aware that at some point you have not welcomed the necessary suffering?

Right here? Yes. I know exactly when.

So this is an example of what should be avoided.

I remembered angrily how I was a long time in unnecessary suffering.

And that’s where you have created even more unnecessary suffering. Probably with some self-pity. If you don’t express this anger, that is a reaction to powerlessness, it becomes a super fuel for the necessary suffering and body consciousness. And it will bring you humility. So welcome powerlessness, transform anger, it’ll make you grow.

There is a lot of energy in anger. And also, when it comes, you cannot know if more will happen or not. And you have to be ready for what follows as well.

The anger, we must neither suppress nor express it, then it becomes a super fuel. This is done with the intention of staying clean and connected to the real world.

The most important piece here is to sort things out as one goes along, what comes from unnecessary suffering and what is the necessary suffering.

Something that helped me to distinguish the two, is to distinguish between what is thought and what is reflection. In necessary suffering, one can have reflections, we can launch an issue but we do not necessarily expect an answer.

Reflection is less rigid than thoughts.

Reflection occurs at many levels, while thought is only mental.

Reflection is probably less likely to create an attachment.
And really, I like this expression: eternal impermanence.
Can we say that welcoming the necessary suffering makes us more vulnerable?

Yes. We don’t have defense against the wounds of life anymore; we no longer refuse to be touched by lived life and experience.

I really feel that I finally understand what body consciousness is. Before, I was equating it to more of an awareness of body tension. Now it’s more like a vibration that runs through the whole body.

Body consciousness is global.

I am also much more conscious of space and everything around me.

It’s a good sign.

I wonder about awareness around the need for validation of the work, and I do not know if it’s unnecessary suffering or necessary suffering.

A general rule is that when confronting necessary suffering, it enhances body consciousness.

In this case, it’s the opposite. I have trouble staying in body consciousness. I don’t know where I am trapped.

Maybe it’s not a trap. Probably you don’t accept a necessary suffering. Is it that you are attached to something that you cannot let go?

Maybe benchmarks.

Then you must let go. But you’d have to wait for an opportunity. Perhaps, the next time you have a self-validation, and you’ll want to have it confirmed, this will be the time necessary to confront the pain of not having any reference.

When you do this, it is important to be 100% in body-consciousness, for it is this which gives you feedback.

This is important, this notion of waiting for the opportunity to finally let go of something, because we cannot force things. And sometimes it takes patience.

When you’re in body consciousness, you see desires as soon as there is a contraction. And we must let them down because they are useless, they are only source of unnecessary suffering. When you see them for what they are, they appear ridiculous. There are some real needs (such as going to the toilet), but a lot of what people call needs (need time for myself, need to be loved, need to have a morning coffee, etc.), it is desires.

Having often accompanied people at the end of their lives, I noticed some things. This is the time when everyone can watch and see what is essential of what is left in one’s life. And that actually applies at every moment: what’s essential for me right now.

Could we say that welcoming the necessary suffering is a preparation for one’s own death?


We talked for a while about being ready to welcome everything, at any time. Personally, I’m not sure I am ready for some physical suffering. When I see some scenes of physical violence from TV, torture or even when I train in karate, if I project myself in these situations, I’m not sure I can welcome them.

In fact, when you welcome physical suffering, then it is possible to relax inside. On the other side, for the suffering of others, then it returns to powerlessness.

In the case of torture, when I see abuse of children for example, it touches me. There is utter powerlessness.

To have often been faced with repeated injuries, I can say that when you immerse yourself in it, you realize that compared to the fear that there was, in fact, the feeling of the injury, finally, is not so bad.

But you still have to remember that this is all hypothetical. When I have such thoughts, I look just past them.

Yes of course. I do not want to add unnecessary suffering either by setting myself into it.

That’s it. Otherwise, it could quickly create unnecessary suffering by emotionalizing.

There is also the brain’s ability to disconnect when the pain becomes too intense.

When I made the Vipassana meditation, the first time, there was intense pain for quite long periods of sitting. And I just watched this pain as precisely as possible. And it became completely impersonal and then it lost its power over me. And since then I have less fear of physical pain.

Welcome the necessary suffering, body consciousness and impersonal. Probably, you did it all together.

What was the original question?

How to treat physical pain?

I use ibuprofen. (laughter). And screaming for help too.

But in fact, there are so many possible scenarios, that I do not know how I would react in such situations.

Yes. In fact, I expressed it just because I have the impression that the fear of physical pain could lead me in the imagination and make me lose body consciousness. There are as mechanisms, automation which then I can make choices to “escape” a situation if I feel the risk of physical suffering.

Yes, we must stop these thoughts immediately and bring attention to the body and remain in body consciousness.