The Scarlet Witch and how we relate to our trauma

I watched Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness which is one of many trauma-informed stories in pop culture these days.

In it, Wanda experiences immense pain from losing the love of her life, her (imagined) children, and more. And she deals with it by reacting to this pain.

She goes into an obsessive pursuit of being with her children in a parallel universe, no matter what the cost is to herself and others, and without considering if the children of another Wanda would accept her. In her obsession, she is unable to consider and take in the real consequences of her strategy.


We all sometimes do this.

We go into reactivity to our pain.

And when we do, it always has an obsessive and compulsive quality.

We may compulsively do just about anything to distract ourselves from the pain, or try to find a resolution to the pain.

We may compulsively eat, work, have sex, or go into relationships. We may obsessively seek something spiritual and engage in spiritual practices. We may compulsively go into ideologies about politics, religion, or just general ideas about how life should be. We may go into blame, hatred, biotry. We may go into shame and self-loathing. We may go into depression or anxity. We may go into pursuing perfection. We may seek fame and success. We may hide from the world. And so on.

Whenever anything has a compulsive quality, it’s a good guess that it’s an attempt to escape pain.

This is not inherently wrong. It’s our mind creating this in an attempt to protect us. At the same time, it’s not the most skillful way of dealing with our pain, and it inevitably perpetuates the cycle of pain and creates more pain.

It doesn’t deal with the real issue so it’s not a real solution.


Is there another option?

Yes, we can relate to our pain more consciously and with a bit more skill and insight.

We can learn to genuinely befriend our pain.

We can meet our pain with love. And this is often easier, at first, when we use a structured approach like metta, tonglen, or ho’oponopono.

We can feel the physical sensation aspect of the pain and rest in noticing and allowing it.

We can dialog with the part(s) of us experiencing the pain. We can listen to how it experiences itself and the world. We can ask what it needs to experience a deep resolution and relaxation. We can ask how we relate to it, and how it would like us to relate to it. We can ask what it would like from us. We can find the painful story it operates from, and help it examine this story and find what’s more genuinely true. (And often more peaceful.) We can find a way to work together more in partnership. And so on.

Through this, we may come to realize that the pain is here to help us, and even our reactivity to the pain is here to help us. It’s our psyche trying to help us. It comes from a wish to protect us, and it’s ultimately a form of love. And it often reflects a slightly immature way of dealing with pain. It’s the way a child deals with pain when they don’t have another option. And that’s no coincidence since these parts of us were often formed in childhood when we didn’t know about or have experience with other options.

We can also find our own nature – as capacity for the content of our experiences and what the world, to us, happens within and as. Notice that the nature of this suffering part of us is the same. (It happens within and as what we are.) Rest in that noticing. And invite the part of us to notice the same and rest in that noticing. This allows for a shift in how we relate to the suffering part of us, and it invites the part itself to untie some tight knots and reorganize.


Whether we like it or not, big Hollywood blockbusters are the mythology of our times – at least for large parts of the world.

So it’s wonderful to see that some of these stories are trauma-informed.

They help us notice patterns in ourselves, at least if we are receptive to it.

Yes, I am like Wanda. I sometimes go into reactivity to my pain and become compulsive about something. That can create even more pain for myself and others, and it doesn’t really resolve anything. And there is another way.

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Matt Licata: To suffer consciously is an ancient, sacred art that has been lost in our time

To suffer consciously is an ancient, sacred art that has been lost in our time, replaced by a well-intentioned solar self-help industry designed to take us out of the darkness and complexity and into consistent joy, flow, happiness, and bliss.

Matt Licata

I generally agree although I am not sure if it has been lost. Some focus on the light and joy to the exclusion of the rest of what we have in us, and many are also exploring how to be with and get to know these sides of us.

Also, this is not about suffering. It’s more about allowing and feeling what’s here, and perhaps even getting to know it and find what’s more true. We can notice it’s already allowed, which makes it easier to consciously allow it. We can get to know the stories within it. We may see where these are from, and what’s more true for us. And so on.

We can relate to these parts of us as we would a suffering child or animal. We can be there with them. Listen to them. Offer our love and companionship. Allow them to have their experience and go through their own process. Have patience with them. Support them in the healing that wants to happen through them.

It’s less about suffering and more about allowing the suffering that’s here. Parts of us suffer, and we can be with and get to know these parts of us. As a whole, we don’t suffer although it can seem that way to the extent we identify with these parts of us.

Adyashanti: Suffering is not wrong

Suffering is not wrong; it is suffering. The judgment is a purely human fabrication that we project onto life. Drop the judgment about suffering and there is Love. Love knows how to respond to every situation without going into division.

– Adyashanti, Sacred Inquiry

Suffering lives its own life. It comes and goes, as anything else.

It’s nature. It’s an expression of life, this universe, and existence.

It’s not wrong and it cannot be wrong. As Adya says, the idea of right and wrong and any judgment comes from our imagination. It’s imagined and placed on top of what’s happening. It’s a human-made fantasy we have collectively agreed on, and cannot be found outside of our images and ideas.

Without this, there is love. Without it, we respond to suffering as an animal. We notice it and allow the experience. There is a gentle acceptance and love here. And we can more easily access our inherent wisdom in how to practically respond to the suffering. There may be something we can do about what trigger or creates it, and we are more easily able to find it with this gentle love.

When we are caught up in the struggle, we get blinded by the struggle. We go into division where there is none.

And when we see what’s actually going on, and recognize our judgments as an expression of the creativity of our mind, there is this gentle love and acceptance, which opens for our inherent practical wisdom for how to respond to it.

There is no magic here, just a simple recognition of what’s going on and an opening to a little more allowing, kindness, and wisdom.

Another side to this is to find a yes to the no in us. We can find an embrace of the part of us that desperately wants it to be different. This part is very natural and childlike and it comes from a wish to protect us. It comes from love. Even the suffering is here to protect us and comes from love. They are both expressions of love. And that makes it easier for us to meet them both with gentle love.

Adyashanti: Suffering is part of the perfection of life

Suffering is a part of the perfection of life.

—Adyashanti in Unity and Uniqueness

In what way is suffering part of the perfection of life?

It’s part of perfection in the way anything is. It happens within and as what I am. It’s an expression of the play of consciousness, or existence, or – if we want to use that label – the divine.

It’s also part of the perfection in the sense that it has a vital function in our life, or perhaps several vital functions.

Suffering invites us to examine our life and situation and make changes. This can lead us to be a better steward of our life, and it can lead us to shift our relationship to ourselves, our experiences, and the world in a way that creates less suffering. Finding a more kind relationship reduces suffering.

Suffering is also a sign that we believe a thought that’s not true. It’s an invitation to examine what we hold as true and find what’s more true for us. (No thought is true, and what’s more true is partly that the thought is not absolutely true, and that other stories about the same also have validity.) If we recognize it, suffering shows us the way to liberation.

Depending on how we relate to suffering, it can lead us to be a better steward of our life. It can help us shift our relationship to life from struggle to befriending. It can help us notice and examine our stressful beliefs. It can encourage us to find healing for emotional issues and trauma. It can humanize us and help us see we are all in it together – we are all in the same boat. It can help us mature. It can deepen our empathy with ourselves and others. It can motivate us to support life and be engaged in reducing the suffering in the world. It can be a motivation for exploring and finding what we are. (The deeper motivation is coming home, love and truth, and it’s ultimately a mystery.)

Even if we react to suffering in the reverse, in a way that deepens suffering and trauma for ourselves and others, that too is part of the perfection of life. It shows us what doesn’t work for us in the long term.

So, yes, suffering is part of the perfection of life – in more than one way.

Dialog with suffering

I play a vital role in his life. I can give him what he most wants. I can give him a more and more open heart and mind and a deep connection with himself, other beings, and the world.

I can help him deeply heal. I can help him deeply awaken. I can help him deeply embody whatever clarity, wisdom, and love is available to him.

A dialog with suffering.

Hello, am I speaking with suffering?

Yes, you are.

How do people treat you?

Most treat me as an outcast. As something to get rid of. They numb themselves from me. They distract themselves from me. They struggle with me. They try to get rid of me. They try to transcend me. They try to transform me. Some even try to define me out of existence.

How is that for you?

How would it be for you? I am not that different from you. It doesn’t feel good. I often feel unloved. Unappreciated. Misunderstood. Abandoned. Abused. Mistreated.

How does P. treat you? (P. is the person these voices are within.)

It’s mixed. He sometimes does all of the above. And sometimes he is much better with me and seeks to understand me and listen to me. I like that.

How can P. appreciate you more?

Thank you for asking. Not many ask that question.

He can listen to me. Hear what I have to say. Ask what I would like from him. And also feel the physical sensations of me. Allow them to be when they are here.

What would you like from him?

To take me seriously. Realize I am here to protect him. My purpose is to help him. He doesn’t have to run away. He doesn’t have to get rid of me or transcend or transform me. When he meets me, he may discover that I am not as scary as he sometimes assumes.

Let me be as I am. Listen to what I have to say. Feel my sensations. That’s really all I ask.

Do you suffer?

That’s a tricky question. No I don’t. I am suffering but I don’t suffer. But when P. ignores me and tries to make me go away, I do – in a sense – suffer. And that suffering gets his attention even more. That extra suffering his the sign for him to notice how he relates to me. That extra suffering comes from how he relates to me. It’s not inherent in who or how I am.

Do you need to go away?

No. I am here for him. I can help him in many ways. I have many gifts for him, if he just sees.

What gifts do you have for him?

He wrote about it in the previous article. He already knows the essence. He just needs to allow it to sink in and live more from it.

I help him take a closer look at the situation he is in and how he relates to his own thoughts and fears.

And if he is receptive, I help him…. become more deeply human. Find deeper empathy with himself and others and the world. Find deeper understanding with others. See that all beings are in the same boat. Motivate him to change the situation he is in. Motivate him to change the situation others are in. Motivate him for deep personal transformation. Motivate him for being a part of deep social and cultural transformation.

I play a vital role in his life. I can give him what he most wants. I can give him a more and more open heart and mind and a deep connection with himself, other beings, and the world.

I can help him deeply heal. I can help him deeply awaken. I can help him deeply embody whatever clarity, wisdom, and love is here for him.

That sounds amazing. I notice I love you now. Why don’t more people see this?

I don’t know. I suspect it’s part of the culture. People tell themselves and others that I am terrible. They tell themselves and others I need to be avoided or gotten rid of. They hypnotize themselves with these stories.

A few do understand some or all of this. Often people who have suffered a lot and used it to grow, heal, mature, and perhaps used me for creating beautiful art or as an engine for social change.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of humans’ lives. Thank you for being part of P.’s life. I love you. And I am sorry for how you have been treated by so many.

Thank you. That means a lot to me. I love you too. I have always loved you and all beings. I am here because of that love.

I love you.

I love you too. Always have. Always will. Whether you see it or not.

When I initially wrote this dialog, I focused on the human side of suffering. That’s fine. But I did leave out something in the bigger picture. And although I have written about it in other articles, I thought I would include it here too.

For all its value, suffering has an exit door. And suffering functions as an exit door for us taking ourselves to be a separate self or something particular within our content of experience.

Can I speak with Big Mind?

Yes, I am here.

How do you see suffering?

What suffering said is accurate although a bit limited. Yes, suffering can help humans in many ways. It’s often a part of being human and if they have a somewhat open heart and mind, it can help them deepen into their humanity and their compassion for all life.

And yet, there is another crucial way suffering can help humans.

Suffering shows them their struggle. Suffering comes when the mind struggles with what is. When it is caught up in a ”should“ saying what is should be different than it is.

Suffering shows them that they struggle and where they struggle, and motivates them to examine this struggle.

It shows them where their mind is still caught in beliefs and identifications, and where they are blind to a thought being a thought.

Suffering invites them to recognize and get to know this dynamic, and question their thoughts and find what’s already more true for them.

It invites them to awaken out of the trance of holding thoughts as true and for what they are – me – to awaken to itself.

I said this from the perspective of humans being somewhat distinct from me, since that’s how most humans perceive it and may help them understand it a little better. But it’s not completely accurate.

Said more accurately, I temporarily and locally take myself to be a human being and holding thoughts as true. This creates suffering. The suffering invites me – while taking myself to be a suffering separate self – to examine suffering and the causes of suffering. And this helps me wake up out of the temporary trance of taking thoughts as true and to myself as what I am.

Getting to know suffering

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.

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.


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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James Eaton: Don’t run from your suffering

Don’t run from your suffering, don’t try to interpret it, or come to conclusions about it;

hold it close, meet it directly, feel the beauty of its wild intensity;

savour the flavour and eat it up, yes eat it up! It’s food for awakening;

for in that sacred digestion, all breaks down to Love.

– James Eaton

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.


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,


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.

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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.


What I hope to get out of suffering

What I hope to get out of suffering is….

Sympathy, compassion, love from others.

I become like others.

Insights, maturing.

Getting what I want from God, life, others (when they see I suffer).

– 0 –

Suffering is….

Heroic, noble, inevitable.

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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.

Inquiry: Suffering is valuable

As long as you see suffering as valuable, you’ll continue to suffer.
– Paraphrased from Adyashanti and A Course in Miracles.

What do I find when I explore this? In what ways do I see suffering as valuable?

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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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