Pain and suffering present an opportunity for one to take a forced spiritual retreat
A few days ago, a close relative who is a cancer survivor suffered a set-back in health which left him in agonising pain. Unable to sit up or stand, he was ready to call it quits. What surprised all of us was that this person, who is a fighter to the core, was giving up easily. This set me thinking about how one can handle pain physical, mental and emotional.
Pain and suffering are easy to bear if one knows they aren’t going to last forever. For example, people brave the pain and fear of a surgery if they know there is a better and pain-free life post that. But if that isn’t clearly the case, then it is a different story.
Rather than going down, acknowledging and embracing pain and suffering (as difficult as this may be) is very enabling as opposed to dwelling on and brooding over it. A paradigm shift occurs in one’s attitude. Embracing pain and suffering isn’t about dissipating energies bemoaning one’s fate saying “My rotten luck, I deserve this and more. I must have sinned which is why these things always happen to me.” On the contrary, it is about accepting the cards that we have been dealt with in an even frame of mind and then looking at the window of hope and initiating action to improve our situation, utilising the time at our disposal.
Pain and suffering present an opportunity for one to take a forced spiritual retreat or sabbatical or journey and ponder on the meaning of life. Which is why suffering and pain are soul strengthening. One never comes out of such an experience unchanged. That said it is entirely in your hands whether you evolve spiritually in the process and become more mellow and compassionate or end up feeling bitter and resentful.
Suffering may sometimes turn out to be a tool for transformation and set you off on an entirely new path. Following a personal bereavement, a friend is now working to create a barrier-free environment for the physically challenged while another has used her own pain to bring hope to cancer patients.
Pain and suffering also build our faith. When all that needs to be done has been done and doctors wring their hands in despair in a somewhat hopeless situation, what is left but faith? If we believe that we shall overcome no matter what the outcome, (even death is sometimes liberating) coping with pain and suffering is bearable. And no matter how bleak the situation is, there are always people and blessings to be grateful for.
Many causes have been attributed to suffering ego, karma, ignorance etc. (remember Buddha said it is the resistance to suffering that causes suffering). The redeeming feature is that we get an opportunity to let go of ego, conquer karma with the right action, and dispel ignorance. As Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron says, “The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart.”
Finally by handling pain and suffering with grace, courage and the right attitude we can be a role model to others. Spiritually evolved souls look upon suffering itself as grace.
The writer is a Reiki channel, yoga practitioner and a spiritual seeker.
Source: Deccan Chronicle, 10th Jan 2015