Suffering is two common definitions I find.
One definition is the actual painful experience we have such as loss, injury, ill health etc which are extremely testing times. This is a common definition of suffering, that it is contrast or limiting experiences that shock us and stop us in our tracks.
The other definition of suffering is more indirect. It arises as the thoughts we focus our attention on.
The experience often seems pointless, would seem to have no value, to be meaningless, at first.
I find the value of suffering is that we discover a deeper clarity of who are truly are. To understand the meaning or reorganise, reset whatever aspect of our life is needing at these times.
So one definition of suffering is the actual experience such as a loss, injury, ill health etc, the actual contrasting or limiting experience itself. The actual loss, retrenchment, betrayal, robbery, etc itself is the suffering. “ I suffered a loss, injury…”. That event can be seen as positive, negative or neutral. Something good can come out of something that is or was otherwise. There is usually a mixture of perceptions and emotions.
This is not to say one way or another is more or less important, it is to say that there is usually more than one way calling for our attention, for our focus.
Perceptions can vary and all hold some degree of sense. And we know from our own experience that we folks can all see things, even the same things differently.
We have all had times when we saw something in one way and were very inclined in it, only to discover that there was not only one or many others that saw it differently and even felt twice as strongly about it as we did. And we may understand their rationale to a degree.
An actual experience/ the painful event itself will have pros and cons and it is where we focus that matters.
I remember my mother passing being a very shocking and painful experience even though she had lived a good long life. I had pros and cons, in the increased role in the family affairs for instance at a more senior level than I had previously experienced. I had lost my mother and the love of a mother, a true close mother, cannot be replaced. This many will agree.
There was healing and self care actions I took at the time to allow the experience of loss to pass, as well as the practical things to reorganise her affairs, which was separate from the narrative thinking about everything else.
So there is the event and then there is the thoughts and definitions that surround the event which leads to actions and different experiences all unfolding.
It is up to us to first allow the direction of thinking we wish to focus on. Having an intention about where we focus our attention.
The event itself can be read as more or less different things, in different ways, so finding a way to stay open to our intuition to be led from our true values helps.
Then there is suffering that arises not from the experience itself but from our thoughts and definitions about it. We think about who caused it, why it happened, how something could have been better, how it could have been avoided, how it hurts and the thinking goes on and on. This is what is now well known as the non stop thinking narrative of the physical egoic mind. It is a key part of my coaching program with my clients, where we come to become observers of this narrative allowing more intuitive thinking rather than the thinking exhausting overwhelm.
It is not that there is no need for thinking about the event. There is room for healthy inner inquiry and this is very helpful. At times, it is the best thing to sit with. Inner Inquiry is a practice of deep exploratory reflection that I find really helps clarity without toxicity. Inner inquiry about our painful experiences helps us flow rather than resist.
The unending narrative of the physical mind however creates resistance within us, resistance to the natural flow of consciousness. This narrative leaves no room for sharpness of focus, for us to come up with solutions, to take decisively in minimal time, to ease the pain.
Sometimes we feel we really need to think to take actions, which is the language that our physical reality operates in, as one of my mentors would say. We define not thinking in this narrative as dull or stagnant.
We can however take action based on our life affirming intentions to ease the pain without as much thinking. We would have experienced times that something happened and the solutions came together before we came up with a solution. Or we just got on with what was needed, changed bandage, made calls, got children from school, we just got on with what needed to happen and life continued. How we come to perceive the things we did when we just got on with it or the things when we just get on with, matters.
The non-stop narrative thinking and definitions do not really serve much purpose apart from resistance to the unrestricted flow of consciousness in the day to day.
This non narrative thinking is the resistance to the suffering (the event itself) which comes from the physical mind.
This suffering of the mind is optional I find. This thinking is different from the actual experience of pain or suffering, which happened in the past.
We can be going through a painful experience and hold different perceptions and contemplation of the experience and similar past experiences.
Some of our perceptions create resistance and some empower us to flow with more ease.
Tragedies happen. They do happen at times, even though, we would all prefer a life that is void of them. I speak from my own experience. But I find that the darker shades of our life experiences, the shadow is also part of life. Just as much as the light. So it is important to allow the two sides of the coin, the shadow and the light.
Shadow and Light are both parts of the one stream of consciousness.
This acceptance of this coin can make a difference, to know that we can allow both sides, and not resist one for the other. There is a way to focus on what we prefer without resisting.
It is actually our resistance to our experiences, whatever they are, that impede our flow, or wellbeing, our emotional freedom
So what can we do to soften our experience of suffering. Three steps I work through with my clients are set out below:
The first step: Self awareness, is key. Being aware that we are indeed going through a rough patch in some aspect of our life and being mindful of the thoughts and definitions we are holding and accepting.
The second step is Acceptance, which can be extremely difficult, but there is a way we can accept our experience without getting attached to it.
We can experience either side of the coin without getting attached to it.
We can have our preferred intentions without getting attached to them.
This process of allowing healing (using direct such as inner inquiry and Indirect modalities such as energy healing etc), is key, to getting the best outcomes through our suffering and our joy.
The third step is Letting go of Resistance. It can be a resistance to accepting the painful experience. And there is also the resistance to letting go of the painful experience.
We are always being guided.
The key thing is to recognise what we are resisting in the moment.
We may be resisting suffering or we may be resisting letting go of the suffering.
Bringing self awareness and understanding to our choices and actions matters. Letting go is a choice, an intention, we make as our experience unfolds.
I remember the days when I was in deep emotional turbulence and I could not imagine what strength feels like, let alone hold empowering intentions. I learnt to rewire slowly through taking the three steps above.
It takes time for us to heal, to have or allow different empowered life affirming intentions.
Taking small steps build muscle of courage to truly feel and accept our experiences. To see them for what they are and not resist.
The Freedom we seek comes from not resisting the experience. To trust and allow.
Letting go of the hold of our thoughts, definitions and rights to our suffering can be hard. We can take time to understand the way we think, to become observers of our own thoughts. Whenever we find ourselves justifying our rights to suffer, we know we are in resistance.
We may see our suffering in so many different ways and justify it, so we can hold on to it and continue to endure it. This can happen in any area of our life, even after much spiritual practice.
The physical egoic mind can play many tricks and define our attempts to hold on as true recovery or our attempts to let go as spiritualisation. This is all resistance.
The truth is we ourselves know when it is time to let go, when we reach our threshold. We can cultivate our alignment to the knowing.
We can learn to go through our painful experiences without definitions or justifications.
We can go Through integration and acceptance using different tools of stillness, meditation, inner inquiry, breathing, energy healing, forgiveness, inner child healing etc to feel safe and empowered again.
I have found that suffering as well as bliss has brought me to a deeper connection with my authentic SELF, to Oneness.
Our heartfelt intentions gradually shift as the experience shifts. As we stay open to reflect and allow clarity, our light through, we can begin to feel safer. And can let go of the painful suffering experience.
That switch to go beyond the suffering again and again is a powerful intention.
That is why I think there are teachers for different levels of pain and suffering and seasons.
There was a time when I could not relate to teachers like Adyashanti or Eckhart Tolle or Mooji, but I kept listening and also going to other teachers, reflecting, healing. There are seeds sown and as we heal and practice we hold different intentions, to get to a place where we are able to feel empowered enough to step away, surrender and allow the experience we are having.