Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Suffering is Optional

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I’ve tried to live a full life and avoid pain, but I couldn’t. Shit happens. But I have learned that suffering – dwelling on the pain, worrying about it, feeling sorry for myself, looking for a pattern and blaming myself and others, is not inevitable; it’s a choice. I suffer, but when I become aware of it, I try to let it go and ask for spirit’s help to see it differently. SOM says, “the Universe does not demand suffering! Someday [like a reformed drama queen] we shall decide we have had enough suffering.” And Hafiz, the wonderful, beautiful Sufi poet says, “All your pain, worry, sorrow will someday apologize and confess they were a great lie.” Isn’t that peacefully glorious? The “someday” Hafiz speaks of can be now. Why wait, it’s our choice - pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

But, as Katherine Saux points out in this month’s SOM Magazine, “our culture is replete with beliefs that we must suffer in order to get better.” For example, “no pain, no gain,” is one of our most popular sayings and most people believe women must suffer and sacrifice to be beautiful and that artists are supposed to suffer to be great. It’s true that challenging situations contain the potential for growth. But the growth comes when we understand that God never gave a challenge without also giving the tools and support to overcome it, if we are aware and attuned. As Ms. Saux says, as “I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death – I don’t have to pitch a tent and linger there. I can allow myself to feel the emotions that need to be felt, then more easily lift my eyes to the power within and leave the valley for the mountain top.”

It’s all good, all god, all designed to help us wake to our reality as spirit. What is grace? St. John of the Cross, asked God. And he said, ‘All that happens.’ From my ego bound, human perspective, it too, often appears that ‘evil doers’ thrive, while goodness, Truth, Justice and the American Way – did I wish you a happy Fourth of July? And, do they have a Fourth of July in England? – are overwhelmed by darkness. But I am heartened by the idea that as Ms. Saux says, my “human understanding of how the great law of cause and effect works its way through time and space is very limited.” Besides, if God is perfect, and She is, and it’s all good, and grace is all that happens, then there’s no punishment, per se; those that do harm only face the consequences of their own actions. The key word is ‘appearances.’ I so agree with Ms. Saux when she says, “Appearances can be deceiving. It is a wonderful spiritual practice to spy God’s presence in places where appearances shout and wave their arms and point to illusion.”

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