The Bourgeois Sufferer is one of my favorite duppies. Every time I see her, I laugh out loud. She’s the inner demon who focuses on “first world” problems, forgetting how insignificant they are in the larger scheme of things. What a ridiculous waste of time! How much needless anxiety and irritation we endure when we lose sight of how good we actually have it!
The term “bourgeois suffering” was coined by Dzongsar Khyentse, a present-day Tibetan lama, filmmaker and writer. But the idea goes back at least as far as Shantideva, an 8th Century Buddhist monk and scholar, who suggested how we might cope:
There is nothing that does not grow light
Through habit and familiarity
Putting up with little cares
I’ll train myself to bear with great adversity.
In Shantideva’s approach, The Bourgeois Sufferer is a friend, not an enemy. She gives us repeated opportunities to sit with our discomfort, get some distance, and practice patience. Then, when we truly need these skills, we have them. When life’s tragedies strike, as they inevitably do, we’re ready.
In addition to training with myself as Shantideva suggests, I’ve found that keeping a gratitude journal helps. There, I can reframe my “misfortunes” as fortunes, and lighten up my attitude in a jiffy.
Here are some recent events in my own life (all during the past week) that triggered my Bourgeois Sufferer duppy:
- I forgot to plug in my cell phone and it ran out of battery life.
- My Samoyed dog Mush yacked up something gross on the dining room floor.
- I had trouble completing side-to-side clippers during a free-style foot bag session.
- The overpriced blueberries I bought at Trader Joe’s were too tart.
- I forgot my Instagram password.
- I ran out of my favorite low carb energy bars.
- Squirrels were stealing the fruit off our persimmon tree.
- Our Roku stopped working and I couldn’t watch Netflix.
- I stepped in poop at the dog park.
Here are the entries in my gratitude journal this morning:
- I have a cell phone, which makes it easy to reach my family and friends, check Facebook, and reach AAA if I’m stuck on the road.
- I have a wonderful dog whose funny shenanigans bring immeasurable joy and laughter to my life.
- I love playing foot bag and I’m getting pretty good for an old lady of 58.
- There’s a Trader Joe’s only a few blocks from my house.
- I have an Instagram account, where I can communicate/interact with my young readers.
- I live in a century and culture where low carb energy bars are readily available and I find it easy to control my weight.
- We have a beautiful persimmon tree that provides shade all summer.
- We have a Roku, bringing us hours of delightful entertainment each week.
- I love taking Mush to the dog park. It makes him so happy!