Never underestimate the value of suffering
The Trappist monk Thomas Merton once said,
“I became a monk not so as to suffer more, but to suffer more effectively.”
This statement offers you a good deal to ponder if you’re striving for greater emotional fulfillment in your life.
When people contact me for help they’re usually wanting to do away with the suffering they’re mired in. They’re often looking to avoid conditions like feeling adrift in the world, excess tension, or chronic pain. All malaises of the 21st century.
In my understanding of the world (which is not to be confused with “The Truth”) people increase their suffering by failing to appreciate the opportunities and learning their current challenges offers them.
When we attempt to escape from our pain, rather than settling into it, we:
1. Set the stage for further misery in the future.
2. Miss out on the possibility of learning life affirming lessons.
3. Fail to understand that some degree of suffering is inherent in the human condition.
4. Miss out on what we most want in life.
I ask my clients, “If it wasn’t for your suffering who would you be today?”
The answer to this question will say a lot about the way you feel about yourself, the manner in which you approach learning and change, and the degree to which you allow happiness to permeate your heart and soul. You’ll improve the quality of your life by striving to better understand what you’re feeling, rather than looking to escape from your turmoil.
You can ask yourself: “How does my perception of my current problem mirror my overall beliefs in life?”
“If I changed my belief system would I still feel stuck?”
In other words, “How would my problem be different if I were different?”
“Solution” and “problem” are two sides of the same coin. With a solution in hand, there is no problem.
Look for the solutions inherent in your current situation, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be “wrong”.
“Suffering” and “peace of mind” are two sides of another coin. When you’re suffering, your emotional mind and your rational mind are locked in combat.
Instead of fighting against yourself, use your whole self to stay cooperatively engaged in your struggle and you’ll find something within you shifts Over time your struggle will be transformed into a life affirming lesson.
When you feel ill at ease in the world, it’s a signal that part of you is calling out for help. When you willingly heed this call the value of your struggle becomes apparent.
Wanting to experience peace of mind is a fine goal to have, if you also realize that sometimes you’ll have little choice but to feel distressed. Much of life happens in between the two.
Nothing stays the same “forever”, and thus change is inevitable. Today’s suffering will turn into tomorrow’s happiness, and eventually you’ll surely suffer once again. That’s just the way life is.
In Aikido we understand that if we follow the direction of an attack without impeding the attacker, the violent energy being expressed will be transformed and a new relationship will emerge.
Accepting that change is inevitable helps you move with life rather than attempting to hold onto either the “bad” or the “good”. As you open up to “change” you’ll find yourself suffering more effectively. Peace of mind is sure to follow!