Dealing With Pain & Suffering: A Helpful Perspective

I had a vision. Well, NOT a vision, actually, because I was seeing REALITY… just more clearly.

I was at a silent meditation retreat, about 6 days in. I had been spending 15 hours a day in walking, eating, sitting and wakeful meditation… kinda like a training camp for the mind. Observing every detail of my passing thoughts, sensations and emotions, sculpting the muscle-tone of my mind to be acutely aware and yet unattached… “not me,” “not mine.”

Suddenly it was as though I was seeing another layer of reality simultaneous to this one. I was aware that the other participants were see-through, like jelly fish. The only difference between them and the air around them, the rocks, and me was that we were each drawn together into our own respective entities. But we were all part of a Whole in some way. I was aware of areas of solidification in each person, what we call our “suffering” or our “issues”.  I understood at that moment that these pain-areas we carry are actually not ours, at least in the way we think. They don’t belong to us. They are part of the Whole, only temporarily housed within us. What a revelation! A feeling of utter relief and connectedness to all things washed over me. “Everything is happening perfectly,” I knew.

What if it’s TRUE That Our Suffering is Not Our Own?

Try it on for a moment. What shifts for you?

For me it means that I don’t need to give the suffering I experience “meaning.” It’s not my fault. It’s not my responsibility. I didn’t create it. There’s nothing to DO about it. A client of mine described it best: “It’s like the wind, passing through.” And, like the wind, I know that suffering is natural. I don’t make up stories about it, I don’t multiply it with obsessive thoughts (except when I do!); I try to accept its existence and allow it to teach and expand and humble me on its’ way… through.

And Dreams?

Now try this on: “Your Dream is Not Your Own.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! But my dream is great. I WANT my dream!”

Play with me for a second here… If your dream is also not your own but the World’s how would you approach it differently? Would you feel less pressure? Like it’s less about “succeeding” or “failing” and more about just taking action on what is given to you? Be honest, did you really “choose” this to be your dream or did it sort of come to you? And if it was given to you then wasn’t it given to you for a reason? And won’t you also be supported in it?

When I first heard this concept it took me DAYS to wrap my head around it. Eventually, I measured it against my own little litmus test for Truth: “That which is false troubles the heart but truth brings joyous tranquility” (Rumi). Oh, YES… I’ll exchange the “mine” part for the Divine Support any day. What a relief, actually!

A Recent Example

Now in my 40’s, I am suddenly aware of the friends I have and the range of their life experiences. Olympic athletes, union organizers, prostitutes, evangelical Christians, poor, disabled, rich, homeless, military, lesbians, monks, models, adulterers, artists. And yet we find ourselves on the same road now, laughing, consoling, sharing wisdom, soul-mates. I realize that the things I was taught were so meaningful– so grand or taboo– were a temporary part of my friends’ journeys. We have all tried on some pretty interesting aspects of the rainbow of human experiences– dreams and sufferings– and have come to a similar place. These experiences don’t define us or make us better or worse than one another. They don’t taint our very souls or ensure our everlasting salvation. The point is rather: Are we saying, “yes!” to all our current dreams and sufferings now… allowing them to expand and teach us?

It’s ALL Okay

Whatever Dream or Suffering (or past dream or suffering) you have is okay. Really. It is not “you”, not “yours.” If it’s a suffering you’re holding onto, let it pass through!—“not me, not mine”. Or allow it to grow your love, understanding, forgiveness or just plain patience… whatever it asks of you during its fleeting stay. Perhaps in transforming these sufferings we are transforming our World.

If it’s a Dream that has arisen, say yes to it without judgment (“I’ve always been a hardworking person why am I dreaming of working part-time and spending more time with my cat?” “I’m a non-materialistic person. I can’t possibly allow myself to want that new car that keeps catching my eye!”). Say yes to this Dream with laughter! Who could have imagined ME doing THIS?! And bring to this new Dream (“not me, not mine”) the light and wisdom of your timeless Soul, far bigger than any Suffering… far beyond this temporary Dream you are living.

“Since everything is but an apparition, having nothing to do with good or bad, 
acceptance or rejection, one may well burst out in laughter.”  
~Longchenpa (14th century Tibet)

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