Speaking for Suffering

It is not an easy task, speaking for suffering.  No one really wants to suffer, nor do most of us really want to talk about it.  Will you admit then that you suffer? Admitting that you suffer, well, it is quite the equivalent of admitting to being crazy or being an addict, it is social suicide and cultural anathema.  Suffering seems to suggest that you have lost control over your situation, that you can’t stop the pain.  In fact, you cannot stop the pain.  I know this is, again, a very unpalatable statement, but it happens to be the one that started the whole idea of Buddhist meditation practice.  Weird, right?

What happens when you stop trying to stop the pain? You suffer.  So, why would you want to do that? Because trying to stop the pain is an endless, thankless, useless task.  Pain is a fact in this life, right up there with change and death.  Facts.  Suffering is our only option! Yup, I said that.  Suffering is our only option.  This is, in fact, very good news.  Suffering becomes something you can choose when you stop trying to resist the truth of your pain. 

Why choose suffering? Two reasons; one, you might learn something valuable about yourself and your world, two, you could choose not to suffer.  Yes, you could choose not to suffer.  You could choose to feel pain.  Pain when you choose to feel it, gives you critical information about your body, your life and your world.  Pain can tell you what you need to do.   This is no small thing in a world full of confusing and constant choices.  And those choices are always changing.  Pain might be your single most reliable index for how to respond to the ever-changing, ever-confusing, ever-expanding choices you live with each day. 

Pain can be a big word, encompassing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual experiences.  Pain can also be a small word, just an ouch.  But either way, the pain you experience is a defining experience for you in any given moment.  It can guide you through the most harrowing of circumstances unerringly.  The key to using pain for yourself in this way is to stop avoiding it.  Allow yourself to feel pain. 

Referring to one of the four great masters of Chinese medicine, Sun Si-Miao, Ted Katpchuk says:

“He implies that pain is hurtful not only because of obstruction, but also because it is a state of conflict between a part of the body and the entire personality.  Pain is never solely physical or psychic.  It is not just the impediment to the flow of blood and qi, but also to the consciousness of personality objecting to that obstruction: and it is partly the clinging to the sensation of blockage.  Pain is not a static or fixed thing, but is constantly amplified or dampened by the psycho-spiritual components of being.”

All of this is extremely good news.  It means we have choice.  It means there is room to both experience pain and to choose not to suffer at the hands of what is true.  You have a body, therefore you will have pain.  You have suffering and therefore you have a choice.  Yay!

Change and The Power of Choice is happening this weekend! This is a day-long workshop integrating Buddhist meditations on impermanence and change with Chinese medicine wisdom. Learning to meditate in this way will support you in using all of your pain and suffering to empower your choices in ways that enliven, enrich and enhance your life! Find out more here.

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Josephine SpilkaComment