Suffering needs no explaining. Virtually everyone has experienced suffering of one kind or the other in their life and knows what it does to them.
Very simply anything that takes joy out of living or fulfilling a purpose is suffering.
But every suffering ends, and ends with an outcome. This adage gives strength and courage to face and fight hardship, be it physical and economic or social, emotional, and mental. It is a powerful ally to be with during severe suffering – it has two positives in it viz:
‘Every suffering ends’ & ‘Ends with an outcome’.
Without positivity nothing is attained in life. Positivity is a motive force within and an expression of faith in this mechanism that Nature has kindly gifted us to survive and fulfil our purpose. Therefore, until the purpose is fulfilled, any suffering is just a mere obstacle. Obstacles are minor impediments that slow us down so we may have the time to exercise patience and gather wisdom before we take a forward leap.
Whilst being a morbid matter, intense and long-lasting suffering of many individuals has produced outcomes of historical proportion:
- Jesus Christ – suffered pain, betrayal and humiliation that resulted in the practice of forgiveness, compassion and charity being enshrined in Christianity.
- Buddha – not wishing to be shielded from the miseries of the world he abandoned life of luxury in the palace and took up austere life of an ascetic in search for an end to human suffering. His insights resulted in the precepts of Buddhism and life of inner peace, spiritual freedom, and nirvana.
- Padre Pio (later St. Pio) – an Italian monk and a stigmatist who bore marks of the crucified Christ and suffered intense pain for nearly 50 years of his life until he died, leaving a legacy for the humanity that even in intense pain the summit of spiritual life can be reached, and the power of prayer can make one a miracle worker.
- Dr Viktor Frankl survived the barbaric treatment in the Nazi concentration camps. During his ordeal in the 1940s he developed a theory that individuals can survive any hardship through a search for meaning and purpose in life. One significant principle of logotherapy, a form of psychotherapy he founded, is that no one can force you to choose your response and attitude to circumstances and stimulus from external conditions; only you have the freedom to choose to give permission.
Steps to Overcoming Suffering
This is the nub of this blog.
When all else appears to be failing to end the suffering, to resort to the inner repository of non-material resources is the only answer, even for a sceptic. It is said ‘there is a spiritual solution to all problems’; the spirit is within, meaning the solution is with the one in search of it, which implies one needs to introspect. When introspecting, one’s mind and spirit are perfectly aligned, thus any inner conflict is replaced by inner integrity and harmony – a spiritual state.
In this state, one explores one’s thoughts and emotions and so becomes aware of them. It then becomes apparent to the subject that there is one entity within that is aware of these thoughts and emotions, and another that is creating these thoughts and emotions. Hence, there is the ‘aware explorer’ and the one that is the ‘creator of the thoughts and emotions’. This entity, ‘the aware’ or call it what you like, is present in all, but mostly those who apply themselves to introspecting become aware of it. This is the authentic silent partner (ASP) which is a tiny speck of the quantum energy field of all possibilities which is a natural part of our makeup. It is through conscious or unconscious communion with the ASP that one attains desired outcomes at spirit or quantum level; hence the adage, “There is a spiritual solution to all problems”.
This knowing is spiritual awakening which is a momentous outcome of one’s excruciating journey through a painful state – the freedom from suffering.
This foundational understanding when taken to heart forms the basis of the steps necessary for overcoming every kind of suffering.
Here they are:
- Embrace your suffering. Come to terms with it as if in a state of surrender. Make it your own. Have no resentment and blame or anger and frustration. Once you have made it your own, you have earned the right to change it or change how you perceive it. You cannot change it by denying its existence. Give it a personality of its own and make it your companion or a daily chore. Be so dedicated to the chore that you are an epitome of devotion and dedication to living with it. Now you cease to live within your suffering and gradually begin to free yourself from its clutches. In extreme state of suffering think of heaven which brings spirituality to the experience. Think of how distraught slaves used to sing sweet songs whilst labouring in the farms of their masters. This pure inner state and joyful acceptance are foundational to creating inner power to go forward with overcoming suffering – ‘as within, so without’.
- Become aware of your thoughts. Practise mindfulness by harnessing and being acutely aware of your thoughts and the resulting emotions. If you identify thoughts causing anger and resentment, remember you have already embraced your present state, so now place thoughts on, and maintain, more pleasant conditions you would like to bring to your life. As you become aware of your inner states you realise there are two entities within – one that is suffering (the ego self) in misery and one that is aware of it and is silently observing what you are undergoing. This is your ASP at your command and service. The very knowing of the presence of this entity will prove to be highly morale-boosting – you are never forsaken. Commune with the ASP in solitary moments. You will be vibrant with inspiration and realise that the seed to bring your suffering to an end is in your thoughts.
- Bring meaning to your life. Your mind does not have to be camped in your suffering all the time. Place it on something else. Have a purpose bigger than yourself, which means to have a mission and be devoted to something you regard as mighty and noble which can raise self-esteem and give value to others. Suffering for doing good is good. Do charity work or write about your experiences or learn a new skill like singing or playing a piano – meaning in life strengthens the will to survive in the direst of circumstances.
- Look to blame no one. The need to blame anyone or anything gives rise to resentment. Resentment increases pain. If you need to blame anyone, it is you to blame. An enlightened being has said,
‘The fault is of the sufferer.’
If you are camped in your suffering, you have chosen not to be aligned with your ASP which is untouched by suffering. The ASP does not suffer, rather it is the egoic self that suffers because the ego wants to resist and fight the circumstances causing the suffering instead of doing what Viktor Frankl did, embrace and surrender, but refuse to let it hurt your psyche and spirit, instead place your mind on a higher purpose – you have the freedom to choose your response.
St. Pio found strength to live with pain from the age of 30, until he died at 81, because he saw a great purpose in his work of charity, miracle healing and improving people’s lives – suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning.
- Practise detachment through meditation. The idea that you are your accumulations, religion, status, and everything else that you identify with and want to protect at all costs is often the primary cause of most suffering. “I am not my wealth, so you don’t get me when you get my wealth” is an uplifting affirmation for any seeker of non-attachment – attachment is the cause, detachment is the salvation.
It is only in a state of detachment that we come closer to our source to strengthen the flow intelligence without any physical effort.
Suffering can bring about transformative changes to the way we look at ourselves and our world – the greatest positive outcome of suffering.