Sometimes we experience dukkha quite directly in our meditation: our knees hurt and our backs hurt and our minds hurt. At other times it’s more subtle. We can’t seem to concentrate; we feel restless, we don’t think we are doing very well. Then our perception of suffering comes from seeing that we cannot control things. Many many times I told my teacher, Sayadaw U Pandita, “Things are going very badly. My head hurts …and my mind is all over the place and I cannot practice. Things are really bad”. He would just say, “That’s dukkha isn’t it” I would look at him expectantly, waiting for him to tell me the magic trick, that one technique that would make all the suffering go away…… But all he would say is “That’s dukkha isn’t it”.
After a while I began to hear what he was saying. “This is a rightful perception”, he was telling me. “This isn’t just a personal drama. This is an opening into one aspect of life. This is part of how it is. This experience has to be seen and acknowledged.” You don’t have to immerse yourself in suffering or get lost in it; but in order to be fully open, you have to let the truth of dukkha in as well. It does not mean that we should be passive or that taking action is never appropriate. Rather it means that we hurt ourselves most by fervently trying to control things so that we never have to suffer.
Joseph Goldstein, Suffering