“We are made to bleed and scab and heal and bleed again and turn every scar into a joke. We are made to fight and fuck and talk and fight again and sit around and laugh until we choke.”
- Ani Difranco
This is a tough world. If you are able to read these words on a computer you should be thankful because you won the fucking birth lottery. Still and all there is not a one of us that is not experiencing some amount of pain and sorrow. How to deal with that, and finding the reason for it is one of the biggest spiritual questions there is.
I come from a Buddhist background. If you know anything at all about Buddhism, you know it is all about liberation from suffering. It posits an entire existence that is manifested from ignorance. Christian Gnosticism posits a broken world created by a demiurge. Mainstream Christianity posits suffering as a result of original sin. The idea that existence should be peace and harmony and that suffering and pain are like breaks or infections in the perfection of things is a common thought throughout the world. It is also one that I do not agree with.
The idea that everything is gods plan is even more appalling. Graham Green once said that “You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God”. People who attempt to comfort suffering by explaining that their suffering is actually God’s mercy, make me want to punch them.
I don’t believe in an inherent peaceful, harmonic, and perfect world – either of the spirit or of the flesh. While I don’t believe in an outside creator god overseer as many do, I do think that we manifest for a reason. We are here to evolve and grow and experience, or in the words of Ms. Difranco, to “fight and fuck and fight again“.
When you are hurting it is hard to even think of suffering as something useful. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a great quote to bandy about at the gym or even when getting laid off, but it is cold comfort when suffering something horrific like the loss a spouse or child. Still and all, suffering is an experience and it is through experience that we grow.
Suffering and Pain are the fire through which consciousness forges ahead and grows. Does this mean that suffering and pain are good? Yes and no. Yes in that it is a tool for growth, but No in that we are not meant to wallow in it, or celebrate it. In fact, if you accept suffering outright, it kind of ceases to really be useful. It is only through the work of dealing with suffering that we grow. This means finding ways to help alleviate the outer cuases of suffering like poverty, ill health, etc. It also means finding ways to coping and using the suffering that comes in a contructive way and how not to let it take us down.
Take for example the self-inflicted suffering and pain that long distance runners endure. The dangers that mountain clinbers and explorers experience. They are strong steel forged through pain and trial. The types of sufferings that we all experience every day are not fundamentally different from these types of suffering IF we choose to look at them the same way.
The methods that I use for this are many, but the principals behind them are few.
1. I seek to fully experience whatever I am experiencing. If I am having sex, than I celebrate that I am getting to experience sex. If I am suffering a great loss, I look at my own mind and say this is what it is like to experience loss. If I am on a ship that is sinking I want to think “huh, so this is what it is like to be on a sinking ship…”
2. I seek non-attachment. People have a lot of mis-understandings about non-attachment. They think it means shutting down and not experiencing joy and love. That is completely incorrect. Non-attachment lets you fully experience the joy and love you get. It just also enables you to let go when the time is right. To know that all things are impermanent and fleeting helps you to divorce cause from effect. I had a teacher that told me that angry words are like an arrow that falls at your feet. Most people bend over, take up the arrow, and plunge it into their own heart because they are attached to the situation. You can however, choose to leave the arrow on the ground.
3. Channeling energy. Emotion is energy. You can feel it in the body. Passion is power. Learning to use and manipulate the winds and channels of the subtle body, and how to purify your mind with meditation, can be an amazing tool for transforming suffering into fuel. It is not about embracing anger or anything like that, It is about letting it arise and re-identifying it as an energy rather than something aimed at specific people you are upset with or bad situations of the moment. There is more to this, and the actual techniques cannot be taught in a blog post, but they are out there.
So, to close with another quote from the music of my teens:
“Don’t act like there is no tomorrow
You should use the pain and the sorrow
To fill you up with power
Life’s both sweet and sour!”
- The Sugarcubes