On the self-realization or spiritual awakening journey it seems the part about how to deal with suffering is not something talked about that often. Even if you have a spiritual awakening, suppressed emotional patterns and dysfunction remain. Spiritual awakening does not heal everything, although healing can occur spontaneously / miraculously – and we usually we have to ask for this. God isn’t going to fix us. Nor is anyone else. And time won’t fix it either. We are responsible for our life, so we have to do the healing work.
I’ll share some thoughts on our habits around suffering, how to heal it, and a perspective that can transform it in the here and now.
Our Habits Around Suffering
Before we enter our conscious healing journey, there are usually many layers of emotional distress and dysfunction that we have been suppressing since childhood as well as from adulthood. We have become accustomed to keeping things ticking over, using our energy and focus to keep our life on an even keel, avoiding suffering at all cost.
We may even think that we don’t suffer, either because we have developed a habit of not facing ourselves, or because we have come to believe we don’t suffer. But suffering is there within us (ego = suffering), and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know this deep down. The number one thing then is to choose to start becoming aware of our suffering, and to proceed along this conscious path towards healing it, whenever we become aware that it is there. If this is everyday, so be it. It will become less frequent the more we adopt a conscious approach to healing. This is breaking the habit of resisting suffering.
How To Heal Suffering
Suffering arises for many reasons. If it is long-held pain from childhood trauma, this will usually require some sustained inner work so we can accept it, learn to love ourselves and release it once and for all. In this case we can choose supportive methods and ways we feel drawn to and commit to releasing what we hold from the past. The first step is to say ‘I choose to heal’ and proceed with some courage. You have it – the courage. We all have it. Courage comes along like a byproduct of suffering, but we need to use. We use it by being with the suffering, not resisting it as we have always done. Allowing suffering is the hardest of all, and this is where we need some courage.
If you’ve started or done a lot of healing work, then there will come times when new suffering will arrive. Some difficult news, a disappointment, a frustration, a loss. In these times we have the power within us to transform the suffering quickly.
The first thing is to sense in the body where you’ve become tense and stressed. Often this is in the chest. Or it may stressful feelings coursing throughout your body. Wherever it is in your body just become aware of the sensations and the emotions, and name them and feel them, in all their pain. “I am feeling X.” Become aware of how your thoughts are suddenly single-mindedly focussed on your suffering, all else has gone out the window. Just be with the feelings. And as you allow the uncomfortable feelings they will pass by quickly, as when you shine your torch of awareness on these painful feelings and feel them in your body, they cannot stay around in the same form for long. They change and get transmuted. It’s just how it works. This is what is meant by the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti “Pain itself destroys pain, suffering itself frees man from suffering.” So just feel the feelings. Don’t resist. Become the witness of them.
The Transformative Perspective
This perspective is that there is a Divine reason for your suffering – this is to purify you. Suffering brings a message – this is to surrender your suffering. Both surrender to your suffering and surrender your suffering. You surrender it to God. This simply means turning to the Divine in the middle of your suffering. Have your thoughts on Him. You are now going from the worldly level of temporary things including suffering to the absolute level of God. This is the God within you, not somewhere external. If you can feel a fervour, a yearning for the Divine this brings a transformative momentum in which your focus leaves the plane of suffering into a higher plane. So you experience a deeper awakening to the Real, or the Infinite. This process itself purifies you of your suffering, and makes you ever more present to the Real level of absolute reality in which there is no suffering. And if the suffering doesn’t just transform right away, maybe it lingers a bit in the background – it won’t matter, as we won’t be so bothered by it anymore, because the mind will not be on that aspect of ourselves.
This is not a religious practice, it is however the quickest way I have found to transform my own suffering. It isn’t a way in the sense of a method I suddenly remember to use, it is just something that happens naturally. Because there is nothing in ‘maya’ or the world that can alleviate suffering since it is maya that brings the suffering in the first place.
We can get to a place where, even though suffering is so painful, we can also welcome it, based upon previous experience of the Divine simply embracing and removing the suffering as we reach out to It (within us). If we have had that experience once, we can have it again. And then suffering is not so difficult. In fact, this ‘practice’, or power, can lead bliss.
Had it not been for my own suffering in life I have no doubt I would not have experienced any spiritual awakening and would still be locked in the throes of the ego’s games of resisting suffering at all cost. So I’ve tried to embrace suffering as the best teacher.
Peace, Love & Light
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