When I talk to people, non-buddhists, about this they seem to think that this is very pessimistic. I then attempt to further explain what I think the Buddha meant.
There are various ways to interpret the Pali word “Dukkha” and suffering is only one way. It can also be disappointment, unhappiness, sorrowful. And who can argue with that.
From the moment we enter this life we are looking for something. At first it is our parents touch, food or a change of diapers. We are happy, for a brief moment, we those needs are met. Then we are sad (suffering) when the bottle we were suckling on is empty.
I remember when my daughter was an infant. She would complain and cry to be fed. She would be content while drinking. But, afterwards she would fuss again because she needed something else. i.e. Sleep, burping, or changing perhaps still another bottle.
Her suffering came from the clinging to the moment of happiness from feeding or the recognition of another need to be filled.
No one expects an infant to realize they are happy and warm most of the time. As parents we do our best to keep them happy but no matter how hard we try their happiness is fleeting, (impermanent) and thus they suffer.
Now at 6 my daughter understands that her needs cannot always be fulfilled immediately and she does her best to savor the happy moments.
Truly, there are times when she reminds me to live in the “present moment.” But, boy if she gets overtired she loses her mindfulness and everyone suffers.
So when you think of the first “Noble Truth” – Life is Suffering- remember that your reaction is what matters most and that without disappointment you would not appreciate the good moments in life.
When you have a moment of suffering remember that it will pass and a moment of joy will pass as well. Greet each moment with equanimity feel the emotions that are there, let them flow through you like a breath and enjoy the moment for what it is.
From there we move to the Second Noble Truth.