Pain and Suffering

1. Introduction

Today I’d like to introduce you to Howard Shifke, a new friend of the Seishindo community. Howard has fully recovered from Parkinson’s Disease using a holistic approach he developed on his own. Anybody who has, or knows somebody who has Parkinson’s, can learn a lot and be inspired by reading Howard’s blog. In fact I think everyone and anyone can be inspired by what he has done. I certainly am!

Howard’s philosophy is fully in tune with Seishindo’s, and you can contact him directly by sending him an email at

Please mention that you learned about Howard from Seishindo, so we can get a sense of the cross-pollination that occurs.

His blog is here,

Today’s story is a major rewrite of one I wrote a long time ago. I offer it here as a way of celebrating Howard’s healing, and as an advance celebration for all the healing that can take place in all of our lives.

In Community,

2. The benefits of Suffering

Sensei said, “I’m always quite intrigued when I read about monks and priests from the West, that express the same feelings we have in Japan.

I recently read that the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, ‘I became a monk not so as to suffer more, but to suffer more effectively.’ Now I can’t say that’s what led me to study Aikido, but I can say the principle Merton sensei expressed, is one that has guided me over time.

The more new students go on about how excited they are to be studying Aikido, the more I’m led to guess they’re trying to escape from suffering. They fail to realize their suffering is created by their beliefs, and not by the outside world. Trying to run away from suffering is like trying to run away from yourself. Anywhere you go, anywhere you get to, you’ll only find your negative beliefs sitting and welcoming you as you arrive. And that’s why in Aikido we look to create a tiny bit of suffering with some of our practices. It’s a good way to see whether or not you are still trying to escape.

You see, the way you respond to what’s taking place, says much more about your beliefs than you realize. Some of you have started to realize your tendency is to try and escape from an attacker rather than joining with them. You’ll never be able to escape the attacker, because you’ll never be able to escape from yourself.

I believe people increase their suffering, each time they try and avoid it. In attempting to escape from your pain rather than settling into it, you set the stage for further misery. Some degree of suffering is inherent to the human condition.

If you’ve been coming to class for awhile now you’ve heard me ask this question before, ‘If it wasn’t for your suffering who would you be today?’ Your answer will say a lot about the way you feel about yourself, the manner in which you approach learning and change, and the reason why you come to class. You’ll improve the quality of your life by immersing yourself in your struggle, rather than looking to escape from it. By realizing that pain is something you create inside your head.

I suggest you ask yourself, ‘How does my perception of my current problem, my current struggle, mirror my overall beliefs in life?’ If your current situation stayed the same, but you changed your belief system would you still be suffering? 
In other words, how would your problems appear to be different if you were different?

Happiness and suffering are two sides of the same coin. Look for the happiness inherent in your current suffering, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be wrong.

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. I think we find no greater example of this, then when a person is diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Disease is the body’s way of telling you, the way you’re leading your life isn’t working. Your symptoms are alerting you to the need for change. Be thankful for the feedback. Without it, you would soon no longer be alive.

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