What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t suffer?

 

Most of us have a complicated relationship with suffering. It’s terrible and familiar. It’s something we want to avoid, and it seems unavoidable. If we don’t already live with it, even if it’s very low grade, then something can happen at any time that triggers it in us.

If we are on a path of healing, or awakening, or embodiment, we need to explore our relationship with suffering.

The obvious relationship is our fear of suffering and wanting to avoid it. I can befriend this great and explore this through inquiry, Natural Rest, and so on.

And yet, there is another side that’s equally important. Or more important since it’s more likely to be overlooked. And that’s our attachment to suffering and fear of what it means if we don’t suffer.

What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t suffer? What do I fear may happen if I don’t suffer?

Here are some stressful stories I find for myself. Most of them don’t have much charge and none of them match my conscious view, but they may still operate in me low-grade and influence my perception and life.

I need to suffer to heal, mature, awaken and embody. It gives me material to awaken etc. It’s required to awaken etc.

It’s noble to suffer. It’s heroic when it’s in the service of a bigger cause. (Healing etc.)

Others who have been on a deep spiritual path have suffered. (Buddha, Jesus, St. Theresa, etc.) If they suffered, I need to too.

If I don’t already suffer, I’ll be taken by surprise when suffering comes and it will be doubly painful. It’s better to brace for it.

If I don’t suffer in a situation people expect me to, they will judge me.

If I don’t suffer, the divine won’t see me as worthy of a good life and awakening. By suffering, I show the divine I need it and deserve it.

After finding these, I can explore them in any way that works for me. In my case, I’ll use inquiry (e.g The Work, Living Inquiries) to find underlying stories and help release the charge out of them, change my relationship with it through heart-centered practices, and/or identify the emotional issue(s) behind the strongest one(s) and work on it with Vortex Healing.

I wanted this article to be simple and a starting point. The topic is much more complex. For instance, what is suffering? How do I go about exploring my relationship to it? How can I befriend and find more peace with it? How can I release the charge in suffering? I have written about that in other articles.

How difficult things look from the perspective of awakening

 

How do difficult things look from the perspective of awakening?

How do tragedies look? Loss of all kinds, whether personal or collective?

It depends, of course. It depends on the level of clarity. It depends on how embodied and lived that clarity is. It depends on conditioning, tradition, and culture, both in how it’s perceived and expressed.

Here are a few things from my own experience.

It’s lila. The play of the divine. It’s all the divine – or life, the Universe – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

It’s all Spirit. It’s happening within and as what we are and everything is. It’s happening within and as (what we may call) awakeness, consciousness, love, wisdom.

It’s not what it looks like. Partly because of lila. Partly because the way it looks, in a conventional sense, is filtered and created by believing stories and being identified with identities and stories. And many of these stories, especially when it comes to loss, are stressful.

When we examine these stressful stories, we may find that reality is kind. (As Byron Katie often points out.) And we can find this for ourselves, even in small ways, through inquiries such as The Work.

When it happens to someone else, there is empathy. We know very well how painful and distressing human experiences can be. We know from our own experience. We wish to be present with others going through it. We wish to be human with others. If appropriate and possible, we wish to alleviate the suffering. That’s all very natural.

And when something diffcult happens in our own life, we wish the same. To be present with what’s here as it is. To recognize the suffering as very natural. Recognize it as the play of the divine, and as Spirit. And if appropriate and possible, to alleviate the suffering. (In our own case, through presence, inquiry, love, and more.)

Mainly, it looks very human. In the best case, it looks like clarity and maturity in a very human way.

In other cases, our own wounds – areas in us not yet healed or on board with the clarity – are triggered and we act from these wounds and lack of clarity.

Often, there is a mix. There is clarity and lack of clarity. And that too is very human.

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Samuel Bercholz: A guided tour of hell

 

I went to an excellent talk with Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye at the Asian Art Museum earlier today. They are the author and artist of A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir. I can highly recommend the book. (Samuel Bercholz also happens to be the founder of the Shambala publishing company. I must have read hundreds of their books.)

A few things about hell. It’s created by our own mind, and more specifically by our beliefs and identifications. Beliefs and identifications are at odds with reality, and create unease and sometimes suffering. This hell is with us as long as we have these beliefs and identifications, whether in this human life or between incarnations. We create our own hell.

What’s the remedy? It’s partly to heal our very human trauma and wounds. And more to the point, to heal our relationship with our experience. To befriend our experience, independent of it’s content. To find kindness and even love for it. And to recognize our experience as awakeness and even love. And this goes for all of our experience, including other people, the world, ourselves, different parts of ourselves, and our own discomfort, pain, and suffering.

My own experience with hellish states. It’s a good reminder for myself. As I have written about before, I have gone through a difficult few years. Following a nondual opening that lasted a few months, I was plunged into chronic fatigue (CFS) and later PTSD. Adyashanti talks about how an awakening or opening can “take the lid” off anything suppressed or avoided in our mind, and that’s what happened to me. There was no chance of holding it back or pushing it away.

A huge amount of unprocessed material surfaced over the following months and years, and it led to PTSD and several months where I hardly slept and all I could do was walk in the woods in Ski, Norway. (While listening to the audio version of the dark night chapter of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill and Adyashanti talking about the dark night and other topics.) Fortunately, I had some guidance by someone who had gone through it himself and understood (Barry Snyder) and I also did The Work and found TRE, both of which helped me tremendously.

And still, a great part of this process was something I just had to ride out. Practices and healings helped in taking the edge off some of it, but the vast bulk of it just had to live its own life and was something I had to find a way to live with, even if it often felt indescribably unbearable and overwhelming.

As so many describe, it has gradually tapered off although I still feel I am in it to some extent. I am very grateful for having found Vortex Healing which has been and is a great support for me in the healing and continued awakening process.

Note: As I wrote the section above, I was aware that this is a good example of hellish states but not a good example of how we can work with it. The unprocessed material that surfaces is something I have worked with extensively and continue to work on healing and clearing – mainly through inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work), TRE, resting with it, and – these days – Vortex Healing. As the intensity has gradually decreased, it’s easier for me to work on it.

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Is trauma behind most or all distress?

 

To me, trauma seems to be behind any distress or suffering. And it’s a simple formula:

Trauma -> beliefs, identifications, velcro (as protection, to find a sense of safety) -> distress.

Trauma can come from small or big events, and from ongoing or one-time events. In any case, the mind responds to the event by creating trauma, and it does so through forming beliefs, identifications, and velcro. It does so to protect the (imagined) self and to find a sense of safety. These beliefs, identifications, and velcro then produce suffering and distress. When life rubs up against beliefs, as it inevitably does, suffering is typically the result.

I am using a very broad definition of trauma here. For instance, someone tells us we are chubby when we are little and this  creates a deficiency story of being chubby, which in turn can lead to a lot of distress later in life. An apparently innocent comment can be experienced as traumatic, the mind responds by creating deficiency stories, beliefs, and identifications, and this creates distress.

And the reason it was experienced as traumatic in the first place is that some beliefs, velcro, and identifications were already in place. Perhaps initially just from copying adults and others around us.

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This sensation wants to be free from suffering as well

 

A friend of mine reminded me of this:

When I experience distress……

Ask myself: Do I want to be free from suffering?

Wait for the answer.

Then ask the same of the suffering itself: Do you want to be free from suffering? (Ask this of the sensation that you experience as suffering.)

In most cases, the answer to both is a yes.

We are on the same team. Recognizing this helps to release the additional suffering of seeing the suffering itself as an enemy. We both wish to be free from this suffering. We both wish to be free from the discomfort.

I think he said this one is from Pamela Wilson.

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Purpose in suffering

 

As long as you think suffering has a purpose, you’ll suffer.

– Adyashanti, paraphrased

We can find meaning in suffering, and that can be helpful. It can be comforting and help us reorient and reframe.

At the same time, as long as I hold any meaning in suffering tightly, I’ll keep suffering. I’ll keep returning to suffering. I’ll hold onto suffering as something precious.

I’ll keep returning to suffering. I’ll hold onto suffering as something precious.

I’ll hold onto suffering as something precious.

That’s why it’s helpful to question any and all of my stories about meaning in suffering.

It may even be essential if I wish to find some freedom around suffering, and not keep pulling myself into it as if it gives me something vital.

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Coping strategies and ripple effects

 

The way I cope with my discomfort and suffering has ripple effects for myself and others.

Some may be healing and bring a deeper resolution for me, and makes me less of a nuisance for others. Others may add to my own suffering, and it may even trigger suffering in others.

Here are some of these coping strategies, listed from healing to less healthy.

Potentially healing and leading to resolution

Inquire into how my mind creates its own experience – of a threat, deficient or inflated self, compulsion, or anything else. (Living Inquiries.)

Inquire into stressful beliefs. (The Work.)

Finding genuine love for my experience as it is. (Ho’oponopono, tonglen, metta etc.)

Release tension out of the body. (TRE.) This tension often “fuels” anxiety, depression, reactivity, wounds, trauma, compulsions, addictions and more.

Pray for resolution, healing, guidance etc.

Slightly less satisfying

Overthinking. Analyzing. Intellectualizing. Rationalizing.

Finding comfort in religion, spiritual ideas, ideology.

Daydreaming. Distractions. Entertainment.

Obsessing.

Seeking love, acceptance.

Less healthy

Compulsive eating, working, sex, exercise, seeking money and status.

Even less healthy

Strong ideologies. Bigotry. Sexism. Racism. Classism. Anthropocentrism.

Compulsive use of alcohol and drugs.

Violence. Crime.

All of these and more are ways of dealing with stress, discomfort, and suffering. Some may lead to healing and resolution. Some are more neutral. And some adds to the suffering for myself and others.

And really, they are ways to cope with uncomfortable sensations made uncomfortable through the imagination connected with them.

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Byron Katie: What is suffering?

 

What is suffering?

The imagined not-now.

– Byron Katie

The imagination of what was. What may be.

The imagination of this moment lasting forever.

With added stories that this – what’s here now, including these stories – is not OK.

How does the mind do this?

By associating sensations with these images and words, so they have a charge, and seem solid and real.

Or, said a few other ways, by identifying with the viewpoint of these words and images. By taking itself as this viewpoint. By believing these stories. And it does so by associating sensations with the words and images, the viewpoints, the stories, making them appear to itself as solid and real, and sometimes even unquestionable.

Any not-now is imagined. It’s made up of words and images, which are placed on an imagined timeline. This is very helpful, and we couldn’t function without it. At the same time, it is all imagined, and it’s good to notice. Even the stories about the present, and the idea of a present, are imaginations, made up of words and images, sometimes associated with sensations.

Holding onto suffering

 

Why do we sometimes hold onto suffering?

There may be many answers. Suffering comes from holding onto a painful story, and the reason we do so varies from story to story.

At the same time, it’s possible to say a few general things about it.

It comes from a wish to find safety, and from deep caring, and even love. When we look into and feel the suffering, we may also find and feel that caring and love. It can be very helpful to notice and feel this.

And there may be some general stories behind our wish to hold onto suffering.

What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t suffer?

I wouldn’t be able to function.

I would be gullible.

I wouldn’t know who I am. I wouldn’t recognize myself.

I wouldn’t get sympathy.

People wouldn’t do things for me. I wouldn’t get people to help me out.

In terms of the living inquiries, we can:

Look for the threat in not suffering. Look for the threat in suffering.

Look for the command to suffer. Look for the command to not suffer.

Look for suffering. Look for absence of suffering.

Look for someone who suffers. Look for someone who is free of suffering.

What I hope to get out of suffering? What do I hope to get out of being free from suffering? And look at that.

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Lisa Meuser: Shame is at the heart of suffering

 

In my own journey and in working w/ clients I’m finding that shame is at the heart of suffering. It’s at the root of identified conditioning and trauma. It’s what fuels harsh self judgment, and what keeps things in a state of separation. It’s what gets in the way of love. And it’s what least wants to get felt and acknowledged- when i come across it in a person who’s not ready/willing/etc to go there, it feels like an actual wall. It’s quite visceral. It’s the ultimate thing to feel- it’s the key to freedom, and also the most backed away from. It’s like jumping into death, and in that there is rebirth.

The thing is, like anything, once it’s seen and felt it doesn’t stay. In my own experience I see and feel it pretty fast now, and in that recogniztion and willingness to dive into it, it doesn’t stay for long. For the most part anyway. It also seems that shame about feeling shame arises! As if after some kind of awakening shame shouldn’t be here, or that there is a “doneness” with shame. In my reality tunnel shame is just like any other thing that arises. It’s just another aspect of being human. it’s normal, and natural, and always evolving.

Lisa Meuser

Shame is one of the gatekeepers. One of the things that holds us back from investigating what’s really there, when something seems painful. It’s also a sign that it isn’t quite investigated. That stories remain unquestioned and unloved.

How to suffer

 

Here are some ways I can make sure I suffer.

Argue with reality. Tell myself something is wrong, bad, shouldn’t be.

Ignore, reject, and battle my own experiences. My emotions, physical pain, thoughts.

Treat myself harshly. Tell myself I am doing it wrong.

Get absorbed in thinking. Taking it as real and solid, and saying something true about life and the world.

Interpret what’s happening in my life, and what others say and do, in the most painful way possible.

Avoid resting with and feeling what’s here. Go into thought instead. Analyze. Ruminate. Blame.

Eat foods that doesn’t work for me.

Stay physically inactive. Ignore the needs and messages from my body.

Avoid nature. Avoid silence. Avoid animals.

Blame others. Put the blame on my own unhappiness or discomfort on people in my life, and groups in society.

Find others who do the same. Make them my company. Or isolate myself.

Spend a lot of time doing this. Make it a daily habit.

It can be helpful to make or look at these types of “how to suffer” instructions. It brings these dynamics into sharp relief, and shows me what’s happening when I am doing this to myself.

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Trauma defined broadly

 

Defined broadly, trauma can refer to (a) any experience (b) we reacted to (c) by contracting, by identifying with stressful stories, (d) in order to protect the (imagined) self, (e) and coming from deep caring and love. We may then (f) act on this, which may in turn (e) create an experience for another person who then reacts in a similar way, so the trauma is passed on, slightly changed but basically the same.

You won’t necessarily find that definition in any textbook, but it makes sense to me.

Defined in this way, trauma is behind just about any distress and suffering.

It’s shared by most or all of us. It’s what’s behind a great deal of human suffering and confusion.

In many cases, it may be an important component in addictions, reactivity, abuse, violence, relationship problems, mental problems, and more. Most of what people are in jail for may be connected to a trauma reaction, as is much (or most?) of what we judge others and ourselves for.

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Wishing to avoid suffering = love for life

 

I listened to Adyashanti talking about the dual motivation of (a) wanting release from suffering, and (b) love for…. Spirit. (Or life, Existence, Spirit, God, or finding clarity, or aligning more consciously with love and truth…. whatever form it takes.)

I can find that in my own experience.

One motivation may be to find release from suffering. (Or even to escape it, depending on how the mind frames it.)

Another may be love for this self, or others, or life, or Existence, or God.

For all of us, I assume that both of these plays a role. Sometimes, one may be more in the foreground, and other times, the other. And they may also be understood in different ways.

For instance, the wish to find release from suffering is really a wish to protect this self. It comes from caring. It’s a form of love. It is love.

So whether the surface appearance is a wish to find release from suffering, or love, it’s love. It’s just love taking different forms. And it can be very helpful to recognize this.

For me, love was in the foreground for many years. A deep, heartfelt love for Existence, life, all as Spirit, all as love. This came following the initial opening or awakening in my teens, where everything – without exception – was revealed as awareness, God, Spirit, love, wisdom. And even before then, from as far back as I can remember in early childhood, I had a deep longing which I later realized was a longing for all as awareness, Spirit, love, wisdom. (Or a recognition of this, a lived recognition of it.)

I remember being at a retreat a few years back, and the teacher talked about suffering as our motivation to find “enlightenment”. I suggested that perhaps love was part of it, and he seemed to scoff at it. It helped me see that for him, avoiding suffering was probably the strongest motivation. (I also got that from his autobiography.) That’s completely OK. Life takes many different paths. And it’s completely possible that he recognizes all of this, and more, and chose to not speak about it there and then. (As a teaching strategy.)

I must admit that I have gotten to experience the “wishing to resolve suffering” side much more during this most recent phase of my life, what some would call a “dark night of the soul”. Even here, there is love “at the bottom”, and a recognition of that wish as a deep caring for this self, and love. A love for life. (Although I sometimes “forget”, when mind gets caught up in struggle and drama.)

As Adya also said, it seems that love can take us further. Also since we can, or perhaps will, recognize – at some point – that both are forms of love.

Wanting to escape suffering is very understandable, especially if we experience a good deal of suffering in our life. And yet, it tends to create a sense of struggle, and it comes from a slight misunderstanding. It comes from not yet recognizing this impulse as a deep caring for the self and life, and a form of (worried) love. When it’s recognized as a form of love, as love, this dynamic tends to soften and relax.

Suffering itself comes from a wish to protect this self, and love. It’s worried love. And recognizing that, suffering itself is more easily allowed and welcomed. It’s recognized as love itself. It’s not something we need to escape, or do away with, or avoid. It’s welcome. It’s recognized as awareness. As love.

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Adyshanti: Allow the light of being to set suffering free

 

Q. What should I do if an old painful memory arises during meditation?

Adyashanti: Old memories, hurts, fears, angers, resentments, etc., can arise in meditation. Simply allow them to arise without resisting, analyzing, judging, or denying them. Just watch them without getting involved.

See that they do not define who you are.

They are pockets of unconsciousness arising to be purified in the light of awareness and released from your system. Allow the light of being to set suffering free.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberation

Yes. That’s the general pointer. Rest with what’s here. Allow the light of being to set suffering free.

Sometimes, it can seem difficult to do. Which is where simple inquiry can be helpful, and make it easier to rest with what’s here. At times, other supportive practices  or some supportive practices –  – can also be helpful.

It’s important to not give up too soon. To not skip to the supportive practices right away, without setting an intention to rest with what’s here, and giving it an honest attempt. And it’s equally important to notice when inquiry or these supportive practices can be helpful. That’s where experience comes in. It does becomes more clear with experience.

Matt Licata: The kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them

 
In speaking with a friend this morning, I was reminded of the great bias in our culture toward the light and away from the darkness. When we meet with a friend who is sad, feeling hopeless, shut down, or otherwise not beaming and joyful, we can become convinced, quite quickly, that something has gone wrong, that some mistake has been made which needs fixing. We scramble to put them back together, to remind them of all the gifts in their life, to let them know everything will be better soon, and that it will all turn out okay.
It is so natural to want to help another and to lessen their suffering and their pain. There is nothing wrong with this intention and with using whatever skillful means we have to help. But we can also start to see that much of this fixing activity arises out of the abandonment of our own relationship with the darkness within. Perhaps as little ones it was not safe to embrace sadness, rage, despair, or hopelessness. If our early environment was one in which love, affection, and connection was withdrawn as a result of our confrontation with these and other ‘non-happy’ states of consciousness, we learned (very intelligently) to disavow their messages, truths, and potential gifts.

It is possible the kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them, removing the burden that they change, transform, feel better, or heal in order for us to love, accept, or simply be with them. And to hold them closely as we wade into the icky, messy, yucky areas of the body and the psyche, vowing with our sweet friend to not turn away from their precious heart and the reality of their immediate subjective experience, *exactly* as it is. As we turn to embrace own unmet sadness, grief, and despair, we can begin to resist the temptation to project our unlived life upon others and the world.

As we come to rest in the wholeness of our immediate, embodied reality, we can start to see that love is a movement of the totality. It is whole, never partial, and is raging and alive even in the darkness, shining brightly in its own way. And that you will never, ever be satisfied with a partial life, with a partial love, or a partial heart. In the core of the darkness, the sadness, the grief, and the aloneness is something very real, breaking through the dream of partiality. But what this is may never support conventional egoic process or our cultural and spiritual fantasies of a life of invulnerability. To embrace this may always feel groundless as you fall off the cliff of the known and into the mandala of presence.

In the wholeness of what you are, everything is alive in its own way, everything is path, and everything is the integrative activity of the beloved. She is not only the joy and the sweetness, but at times will arrive as the darkness itself to reorder your world. She will shape-shift using both sweet *and* fierce grace, including both peaceful *and* wrathful manifestation, in order to reveal the primordial integration of her movement in the world of time and space.

Let us stay close to our own suffering and the suffering of others, careful not to cut it too quickly. Let us turn toward the darkness before we discard it, and finally see what it has to say. For we may discover a light shining there that is heralding a new world.

– Matt Licata

Fire & Brimstone

 

Life has some sobering aspects to it, and so does spiritual practice, and absence of spiritual practice.

Life.

Everything that can be lost will be lost.

This experience is gone as soon as it’s here, whether I like it or not, whether I try to hold onto it or not.

We inevitably get what we think we don’t want, don’t get what we think we want, and lose what we have that we think we want.

Everyone and everything I cherish will be gone. My loved ones will die. I will die.

Earth will end. Humanity will end. The Universe will end.

We are heading straight into an ecological bottleneck of our own making. We are getting the consequences of a worldview and way of life that doesn’t take ecological realities into account.

There is war. Suffering. Illness. Death.

No spiritual practice.

When mind identifies with thought, and takes it as true, we perceive and live as if it’s true. Suffering is inherent in this, and even synonymous with it.

Living from a perception of mainly or exclusively being this human self creates and is suffering.

Spiritual practice.

Awakening includes having to face ones wounds, traumas, and a very primal dread and terror.

Awakening  includes life setting up situations that requires us to live from our realization. If we don’t, we get the consequences and still can’t avoid having to do it at a later point.

Awakening requires us to chose our guidance over our shoulds and fears. Here too, we get the consequences of not doing it, and can’t escape having to more consistently living from our guidance at some point.

Seeing this, we also see that there is “no way out” but to find peace with what’s here. Allow it, and notice it is allowed. Welcome it. Find love for it, and notice it is love. And see through it. See how the mind creates the appearances, and the nature of delusion, and the nature of reality.

Also, each of these ideas are here to be questioned. Can I find the validity in the reversals of these ideas, with concrete and real examples from my own experience? Can I find life, death, suffering, illness, pain – when I examine immediate experience?

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Attachment to suffering, collapse and tragedy

 

I notice an attachment to suffering, collapse and tragedy in me.

Yesterday, it came up very strongly, as a fierce animal.

I also see that this is what keeps the whole identified mind, and what comes out of it, in place.

It’s the ego fighting for its life, as so many says.

And it’s all from a set of beliefs:

Suffering is better for me. I have to suffer. Suffering is not optional.

I am a victim. Being a victim gets me something (comfort, sympathy, love from others).

Suffering shows I want to do and be better. Suffering shows I want to be a good boy.

Suffering is expected of me. Suffering is what humans do. Suffering is what I know.

If I don’t suffer, I wouldn’t know who I am. If I don’t suffer, I wouldn’t know how to live.

If I don’t suffer, I leave humanity. If I don’t suffer, I will be too different from others.

 

Adyashanti: Be very careful about how much suffering you take away from people

 

Be very careful about how much suffering you take away from people, because you may be taking away their key to freedom.
– Adyashanti, paraphrasing his teacher.

This is one of those statements that can be very helpful if understood a certain way, and less helpful if understood another way.

What it means, in my mind, is to notice that when we try to comfort by words, these words can be a comfort for a while, but they may not do much to help the person find their own clarity and truth. As Byron Katie says, words can be a pillow for sleeping. The person’s suffering may be alleviated, but the roots of it are still there.

What’s more helpful is to offer the tools for seeing through these roots, for instance inquiry.

And is it true we can take away anyone’s suffering? If another person says comforting words to me, and I take them as a comfort, as a way to avoid looking at the roots of my own suffering, I am the one doing it. The other person doesn’t have that power. And is my suffering taken away? No, it’s here. It’s waiting to resurface as soon as the triggers of my suffering, the images I take as true, are triggered again.

So I can be a friend to the other person. I can be there for him or her. I can listen. I can hold. I can support in any way that feels kind and wise.

And, if the other person is receptive and ask, I can offer tools that can get to the root of his or her suffering.

Generational suffering / dynamics

 

When I do inquiry, I see that whatever thought I am looking at, it’s universal. I imagine the same thought held as true by my parents, my brother, my wider culture, perhaps even most of humanity. I see it’s transmitted to me through my parents, my brother, my peers, media.

And it’s adopted by me in a very innocent way. It’s what others seem to do – taking this thought as true – so I do the same. In my innocence, I do it to fit in. Others seems to know something I don’t. It may help me somehow. I think it may help me find acceptance, approval, love, safety.

The belief is personal, since it’s happening here and operates in this life, and it’s impersonal to the extent it’s shared by larger groups of people. Some beliefs may be particular to my culture. And it’s underlying and more basic beliefs may be very ancient and shared by most of humanity.

It can be quite helpful to recognize this. What’s here is not just mine. It’s shared by my family, my culture, and perhaps most of humanity. It’s transmitted through the generations. I am doing the work not only for myself, but for my family, those around me, those who come after me, even for all of my ancestors who suffered through holding onto a particular thought as true.

And as with any thought, this one – about generational suffering and dynamics – can be stressful if held as absolutely true.

It’s generational suffering.

Is it true? No.

What happens, how do I react, when I take it as true? I feel it’s true. It becomes solid in my mind. It feels heavy. It becomes large in my mind, overwhelming. If it has been transmitted to me by so many generations, how can I expect it to end with me? I feel a responsibility of having it end with me, and it feels heavy. I think I may not be up to the task. I may transmit it to future generations, and be responsible for their suffering. I may fail in ending it here. 

Who would I be without that thought? I work on what’s here, free of stressful thoughts of it being ancient, of being responsible for stopping it here. I work on it more innocently. With joy, curiosity, interest. I feel more connected.

Can you find turnarounds? TA to self: I am generational suffering. When I have the thought of generational suffering, and take it as true, I am generational suffering. I feel the burden of my image of generational suffering. I experience the suffering of that thought. TA to opposite: It’s not generational suffering. I don’t know. It’s just a thought, an image. TA to opposite: It’s immediacy suffering. Yes, that’s more true. It’s here and now. Whatever my images of it, the suffering and the dynamics around the beliefs, happen here and now. I may have images of it being generational, or not, and it’s really  just here and now.

Byron Katie on suffering

 

Dearest Janey,

Suffering right now, not just forever, is the result of living out of an unquestioned mind. I don’t have any good examples of why it could be a good thing to suffer at all, anytime, not to mention forever, other than to feel the suffering, identify the thoughts that are causing the suffering and do The Work on the identified concepts that are causing the suffering, and then look forward to any suffering left to show you what hasn’t been dealt with yet, and then do The Work with that.

Also, “forever” implies a future in time, and no one can know for sure what that will bring. In this moment ”now” is the only “real” piece of time available to us. And why can’t this moment be enough suffering? Why must we project this suffering now into an imagined future for more? So to answer your question, “Why could it be a good thing to suffer forever?” So you can do The Work on the idea “I am going to suffer forever” and end your suffering and fear about the future you are believing in now. To do The Work on this idea, to discover that the idea of suffering forever is the cause of your suffering now, could be the end of your fear of the future. Why would someone want to question the idea “I will suffer forever”? Because what this fear is creating is your stressful moment now.

Loving you,

kt

From a newsletter a while back.

Seeing beliefs as valuable

 

Why do I sometimes take a story as true?

When I investigate specific beliefs in specific situations, I sometimes find a simple answer:

I see it as valuable to take the story as true, I think it may be helpful. It may help me get what I want, which is often a sense of safety.

There are a couple of related questions here:

Why does attention tend to go to beliefs?

And why is there sometimes a draw to suffering and staying is suffering?

It seems that one answer is the same: I see it as valuable. I think it will give me what it want. I hope it will give me safety.

Read More

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls

 

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
– Kahlil Gibran

That’s true in a conventional sense, of course. And it also rests on some assumptions worth questioning. For instance, it’s suffering. What do I find when I explore that belief from a situation in my own life?

I am also reminded of how familiarity with neurogenic tremors (TRE) over time can offer a trust in the body’s ability to release tension and trauma, so there is more fluidity in entering and leaving trauma-triggering situations when they happen.

And also how (the appearance of) suffering and scars are created by taking thoughts as true, and when there is more clarity there is a sense of coming home, gratitude, and compassion. Even the labels of suffering, trauma and scars may reveal themselves to not be quite true, and that may go for the labels of strong and weak, and even soul and character.

 

Mini-inquiry: Suffering is terrible

 

Suffering is terrible.

TA: Suffering is not terrible.

It’s very ephemeral. It’s here for a while, then it’s gone. It’s not terrible.

TA: Suffering is wonderful.

In my experience, it’s humbling in a good way, it makes me more human. Suffering opens me up.

In my experience, the intensity of it is a “peak” experience, it brings me close and here & now. It’s wonderful in that sense.

I feel alive, even in the suffering, and very present.

It makes me seek new solutions because the old doesn’t work. There is receptivity for something new.

The painful thing about suffering is trying to escape it, not the suffering itself.

(And is it suffering if I don’t try to escape it?)

Specific to a situation where I experienced suffering:

A year and a half ago, when the dark night was at it’s darkest (so far!), I realized “I” couldn’t do anything. “I” couldn’t fix it, manipulate it, control it. That was humbling in a very god way.

During that time, I also saw I couldn’t just “pull myself out of it”. It was impossible. It helped me understand how it is for others. It made me see myself as more human, more as anyone else.

It was also a very intense and alive experience, bringing me to the present. That was genuinely wonderful.

It brought me to seek help in a very sincere way. It helped me open up to new and different ways of relating to life and my experience.

Specifically, it helped me experience – more intimately – my tendency to want to escape experiences and life, and that itself is painful.

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Inquiry: She shouldn’t suffer

 

Someone posted a question about the statement she shouldn’t suffer on a Facebook group for The Work.

It’s a juicy inquiry, and perhaps the most simple I find is that when I believe that thought, I am caught up in the thought and related/underlying thoughts. If the thought is not believed, it opens for love, receptivity and being there for the other person.

There is a lot more to say about it, and I’ll let this be enough for now.

Living a lie

 

Whenever I take a story as true, I live a lie.

This lie has a huge impact on myself, others and the world. It causes suffering directly, and it also prevents action that could bring joy and alleviation of suffering for myself and others.

Through contemplation, inquiry or conversations, I can  bring into awareness some of this impact, realizing that I will never be aware of most of it.

When I recognize this, for instance through The Work, I find that it is sobering and powerful and brings an added urgency to inquiry, to bringing more clarity into how I live my life, the ways I take stories as true, and the impact of taking stories as true and also of allowing them to liberate.

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Enlightenment is retroactive, and so is innocence, kindness, wisdom, and lack of suffering

 

Another way to talk about always & everywhere is to say that enlightenment is retroactive. (From Joel at CSS.)

When we find that we are capacity for whatever is happening, as they say in the headless world, we also find that it is always like that. There has never been a time it wasn’t like that already, it is just that we didn’t notice. We took ourselves to be a portion of what we are capacity for. (This human self, a doer, observer, etc.) So in that sense, enlightenment is retroactive. It is all already Buddha Mind, the Divine Mind, the play of God.

But there are also other aspects to it.

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Living a lie

 

Living a lie is painful.

What does it mean to live a lie?

It happens whenever we take a story as true, which covers up what is more true for us. And when we take a story as true, we act as if it is true. We have to live it, we cannot help it.

So taking a story as true is to live a lie. We take our interpretations of something as true, and we act on that lie, either by taking actions that are not clear and kind, or by avoiding actions that would be the more clear and kind way.

And it is painful. Or more correctly, it is suffering. There is inevitably a clash between our stories of what should be (belief) and what is, was or may be, and this creates some version of stress, discomfort, unease or suffering.

And there is tension between what we – somewhere – know to be more true, and our actions in the world, whether we act in ways that create suffering or avoid acting in ways that would be more clear and kind. We create suffering in ourselves, and we act in ways that often trigger suffering in others because of their beliefs. The ripple effects go out far beyond the few we notice.

Sometimes we notice we are living a lie, yet we still live it because we are not clear, we have not investigated the stories thoroughly.

Sometimes we don’t notice it as a lie at all. Our stories of what is true covers it up. But we do notice the discomfort.

And sometimes we notice the discomfort, take it as a pointer to find a belief, investigate that story, find what is more true for us, and allow room for identification with it to fall away, on its own time. And to extent identification falls away, we live from clarity and kindness, at least in that one area of life.

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Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine…

 

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)

As with so many of the saying of Jesus, this one is beautiful, simple and true in many different ways.

It is true through a Jungian filter, where we see Christ as the realized wholeness of this human self, and the ways we treat others as mirroring the ways we treat ourselves. This one is helpful, although a little limited.

More interestingly, it is true in the sense discovered by mystics from any tradition… There is only God. There is no I with an Other to be found anywhere, even if it may appear that way. All beings happen within, to and as God.

God can notice itself or not while functionally connected to a living being (in our case, this particular human self). If it doesn’t, there is suffering. If it does, there is a release from suffering.

And if there is suffering, it is, in a very real sense, God that is suffering.

It doesn’t touch what God is, which is this stainless awakeness untouched by anything in the world the same way as space is not touched by its content. Suffering is nothing else than this awakeness itself, no other than God itself.

Yet, it is experienced as real, substantial, happening to a separate I, so it is very real in that sense.

All of this means that whatever we do for any being, we do for God. Whatever we do for the least one, the one who suffers, we do for God. When we help someone, even in small ways, it is God we are helping.

It is God helping God. God exploring how it is to be finite, to be helped, to help.

All happening within, to and as awakeness.

Suffering

 

A few things about suffering…

  • Suffering comes from beliefs in stories, and we can look at this in a few different ways…
    • It comes about through the discrepancy between our stories of what is and should be. In my own experience, that is the only place I find it. (For instance, physical pain is just pain, not suffering until there is a “should” added, saying it should not be there.)
    • Suffering happens whenever there is a belief in any story, because any story has a “should” in it and life will or can always show up differently from any should in any story.
    • Suffering is there as soon as there is an I with an Other, and this I with an Other is created as soon as there is a belief in any story. There is an identification with a particular perspective and identity, and there is a disidentification with their reversals. From here, an I with an Other is created. There is an exclusive identification with one part within the realm of form, we become an object in the world, and are the mercy of the larger whole. We want things we don’t get. We lose things we have and want. We get things we don’t want. We are stuck with things we don’t want.
  • This suffering can happen in many forms and at different levels of intensity, from a slight sense of unease to full blown suffering.
  • As anything within the realm of form, suffering is a guest, living its own life.
    • We can invite it in or not, in different ways, but it still lives its own life, on its own schedule.
    • As as with any guest, we can relate to it in different ways. We can resist the experience of it, push it away, try to escape, and it only becomes stronger. We can allow it, in a wholehearted and heartfelt way, and it shifts.
  • When what we are awakens to itself, suffering falls away. (What we are… this field of awakeness and form inherently free from an I with an Other, yet functionally connected with this particular human self.)
    • There is a release from identification with stories, so suffering also falls away. And there is a release from identification with resistance, so suffering falls away that way too. (This happens to the extent awakeness notices itself as awakeness.)
    • Suffering is recognized as no other than awakeness itself. It is just a manifestation of awakeness itself, of God, Buddha Mind, Brahman. It is perfect. Nothing is missing.
    • Suffering is recognized as never happening to an I with an Other. It just happens within God.
  • At the same time, there is a natural compassion when suffering happens in other human selves.
    • It is experienced as real, so is real. It is God who temporarily forgot what it is, so experiences suffering. It is God suffering. (Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.)
    • And this human self naturally does what it can to alleviate this suffering.
      • It takes it seriously, because it is experienced as real so is real.
      • It uses whatever means it has to alleviate suffering in the short term, in any of the conventional ways. (Emotional, informational, instrumental/practical support.)
      • If there is interest in the other human self, and it asks, this human self can also help exploring suffering more in depth, helping it arrive at a more complete release from it.
  • As with anything else, this has to be explored and come alive in our own life. Believing anything about it helps in a temporary and surface way at best.

Evil and beating the head against the wall

 

In Suffering, Evil and the Existence of God, an opinion piece in New York Times, two books on that topic are reviewed. They seem to share a conventional Christian theological approach to the topic, the view that there is no good solution to the question of why a good God allows evil in the world, and they also share not going much further.

Within the conventional Christian views on this topic, we end up beating our heads against the wall. So the reasonable course of action would then be to go outside of this context and see what we can find there.

Why not look at why the Christian mystics have to say about the topic? What about other philosophies and religions? And maybe most importantly, why not explore it in your own experience?

Even a superficial inquiry into our own experience would tell us that (a) good and evil are human-made and culturally dependent concepts, and (b) suffering comes when our stories about what is and should be clash.

In a way, it is so obvious and so simple that it is easy to dismiss. We may notice it, explore it to some extent, and then tell ourselves that there has to be more to it than that. It cannot be that simple. And there may also be a fear that embracing this fully would lead to a breakdown of any shared norms into anarchy, nihilism, the worst forms of value relativism.

Exploring it a little further for ourselves, we find a freedom from identification with particular views, which is also a freedom to apply any view as seem appropriate to the situation. With this release of identification with views, the appearance of substance and inherent truth in views goes out, there is no need to defend or attack the truth of views anymore, and they appear as tools of limited and practical value only. We can allow ourselves to be guided by our experience and the natural empathy that arises when there is this release from identification with views, and freely and fluidly use any view that has practical value in a particular situation.

Albert Ellis and the magic line

 

albert_ellis1.jpg

Albert Ellis, one of the early (western, mainstream) cognitive therapists, died last week.

In a Buddhist/Adveita/nondual perspective, he was right on in realizing that our “personal philosophy contains beliefs that lead to his [our] own emotional pain”.

It is also funny, and telling, how he drew a magic line for what to question. Anything that has to do with how our particular identity is made up and fleshed out is questioned, and rightly so. A lot of stress and suffering comes from these types of beliefs.

But the core beliefs, that of being a separate self, and taking ourselves to be this human self, were not questioned by him. These beliefs went unnoticed. They were taken as so obviously true that they were granted asylum from examination.

These too are personal, or rather cultural, beliefs that lead to our own emotional pain. In fact, they are at the core of our experience of stress, discomfort and suffering. Everything else, all the beliefs that has to do with our fleshed-out identity, are only flavors and enhancements of this one essential suffering.

Of course, all these secondary beliefs prop up the core belief in an I with an Other, so questioning the core beliefs directly does usually not have the immediate effect of all of them falling away. (Although it can, in some circumstances.) Usually, we have to question both types, over and over, for some time, unraveling one thread at a time in the tapestry of beliefs until the whole thing comes undone.

Ground of suffering and joy

 

In the introduction to Diamond in Your Pocket, Gangaji describes how her life before awakening was a ground of suffering, and after a ground of joy, independent of the surface experiences.

(When there is a sense of a separate self, there is inevitably suffering, in spite of conventional joy and happiness. And when this is seen through, there is equally inevitably joy, in spite of whatever surface experiences are there.)

I notice this ground of suffering in myself, and also the habitual resistance in avoiding it. As often as I have seen beliefs and emotions dissolve into clarity and joy, through inquiry and being with, there is still hesitancy there. Still a holding back. A part of me does still not quite believe it: behind the dragons is the treasure.