From out of the inherent goodness of the human heart arise the questions: “How can we alleviate suffering? How can we help those who are in pain – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual or social pain? How can we stop or change or get rid of the suffering – in oneself, in others?”
It is time now, however, to reframe the question: Rather than trying to get rid of suffering – as though it is something not to be included in the human condition, we can explore the nature of suffering. What is it? Why does it happen in a benevolent universe?
But to explore it, to ‘understand’ it, we have to feel it! We cannot stand back and watch suffering from a distance and expect to know what it is. Like anything else, if we do not develop a relationship with it we remain aloof and intellectual, seeing only through assumptions, projections, unconscious judgments – seeing from a place safe, separate, thus inaccurate.
So . . . how do we get more honest in our desire to alleviate suffering? The response to this question is so close at hand that few will see it: We just feel it!
How does that help? Well . . . is there anyone among us who is not offered the opportunity to feel the uncomfortable responses to life? Is there any one of us who does not get angry, frustrated, seemingly denied the peace of mind or sense of justice and fulfillment of desire that we believe to be possible? Is it not so that beneath such emotion lies hurt? Is it not so that we are offered, as part of our daily existence, the opportunity to notice that pain is offering itself to be known?
Yet, most people attempt in any way possible to get rid of it. Drugs, alcohol, violence, inappropriate use of meditation, relationships – all can be used to avoid feeling.
A woman I’ve worked with for close to fifteen years couldn’t hear me when I suggested she allow herself to feel more directly her relationship with life. For about twelve of those years she fought my suggestion – arguing, denying, excusing, rationalizing, changing the subject when it showed up, blaming others, even blazing with anger at me and threatening to cease working with me. Then – – gradually we saw her become quiet, listening, not with her ears but from a deeper, more intuitive, sensory level of herself. And then – – ahh – – she got it. Rather than fight life, rather than use words and emotional reactions to ward off anything that could touch the pain, she just felt it. Quietly, peacefully, felt it. And in feeling it, realized that the sensation she had been avoiding was an energy. It was, and is, life force seeking to move through us freely, seeking to heal us, awaken us, to awaken all of us to a more balanced existence – an existence where we are motivated not by unconscious and unexamined tactics of avoidance of pain or suffering but by understanding and actual compassion. When we in any way avoid the movement of life force we throw ourselves and others out of balance, and we blind ourselves to reality.
We can help alleviate suffering – every one of us – simply by allowing it to move through us, heal us, take its course, let it shift and change into other aspects of feeling. Then we will see more clearly, love without agenda and contribute to the psychic balance that is possible in the human condition.
We can help if we realize that what we have been calling ‘pain’ is life force trying to set itself free. We can help if we are willing to just feel it.