I feel a bit sorry for suffering. Most people want to get rid of it. A lot of healing work is about getting rid of suffering. A lot of people into awakening want to get rid of suffering. Even a whole religion, Buddhism, implies it’s about getting rid of suffering.
Suffering is an experience. Suffering is a part of our experience that wants our attention, understanding, and love, as any other part.
And as with any other part, if we reject it or abandon it or even meet it with the intention of “transforming” it, we create another layer of distress for ourselves. What suffering wants and what we want – when we look a little closer – is to get to know it. To change our relationship with it. Be present with it, listen to what it has to say, ask it what it wants from us, understand it, find genuine love for it, and also recognize it as not “other” – it’s part of who we are as this human self, and it’s part of what we are.
Suffering comes with many gifts. Depending on how we relate to it… it can help us deepen our empathy with ourselves and others. It can help us see that we are all in the same boat. Our own suffering helps us recognize the suffering in others and can motivate us to help them.
Suffering can bring us to our knees and humble us in the best possible way. Suffering can help us become more deeply and fully human in the best sense.
Suffering can motivate us to change how we relate to ourselves and others.
Suffering can motivate us to change the situation we are in. Suffering can be a driver for deep personal and social change. Suffering can motivate us to explore and better understand the situation triggering suffering in ourselves or others. Suffering can motivate us to explore and understand the dynamics of suffering in ourselves and how our mind creates that experience for ourselves.
Without suffering, it may be that none of us would be here today. It has most likely played a vital role in the evolution of humanity, as it can play a vital role in our own healing, maturing, and even awakening if we allow it to.
I said, “depending on how we relate to it” earlier. Of course, depending on how we relate to it, suffering can also trigger the exact opposite of what I described. It can lead to bitterness, hardness, hatred, violence, and much more. And it can open us up and open our heart and minds to ourselves and others and all life and all of existence.
Most of us allow it to do one and then the other depending on the situation, and it also changes over time.
There is another side to this, and that is that suffering has an exit door. And suffering itself, when examined, can show us this exit.
How do we explore this exit?
We can do it through finding how our mind creates its experience of suffering. We can do it through examining stressful beliefs. We can do it through healing our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world. And we can do it through noticing what we are, learning to notice this through more states and situations in life, and learning to live from this and allow our human self to transform within this context.
Suffering invites us to examine the dynamics of suffering and what creates suffering. We may find that suffering comes from our mental – and consequently whole being – struggle with what is. That struggle comes from beliefs, identifications, and mental positions rubbing up against reality. It comes from taking ourselves as content of experience and other content as “other”. So the solution is to explore and get to know these dynamics, befriend our experiences as they are, and notice what we are – as capacity for all of this.
As we come to understand and even appreciate suffering better, find healing for our relationship to suffering, examine the thoughts creating suffering , and find a different context for our experience of suffering, we may find that our experience of suffering is different. It may not be something “other” or something we need to struggle with or avoid. It can be a guide and reminder for us. The charge in it may be less. And it appears quite different to us since it happens in a different context.