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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Suffering is Optional


In a weekly group that has been meeting with me for a number of years, I recounted the story I had heard elsewhere (I believe it was in a Wayne Dyer seminar years ago) of a man who had lost his wife of many years to a terminal illness. The day after the funeral he was seen dancing. Of course, many who saw this or heard of it were horrified. How could he do this so quickly after his beloved wife's death?  His answer? Eventually I would have recovered from her death. All I did was to decide that 'eventually' was now.

That is not a facetious answer. Rather, it is a choice. The more you are responsible for yourself, your SELF, your words, thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions, the more you are able to consciously choose that which serves you - and your world - best. Would that old man have shown greater love for his deceased wife by grieving for months or even years? Or did he show immense love by realizing he served the energy of the global community best by bringing his energy back to a level where it did not detract from, but rather added to the already existing energy on our planet?

What happens when you see someone going through a hard time or suffering? You feel bad for them, right? How does that help them? Feeling compassion for another who is dealing with some difficult cards that life has dealt him or her is worlds removed from making yourself feel bad so that somehow, some way, the other gets better from your bad or sad feelings. If this were truly so, we could all go take classes and learn how to feel really, really and terribly bad so that the ills of the world would improve, right? As stated in the example of the man who was dancing the night after his wife's death, the choices we make about our feelings have the capacity to contribute or detract from the overall energetic frequency of the world. That includes our feelings in difficult situations. When you find yourself deciding to feel bad about something difficult that is happening to another, remember that such a decision detracts and reduces the overall energetic frequency of the world. You've heard - by now - of the concept taken from the wisdom of most of the ancient thinkers, writer, and teachers, as well as from quantum physics, that we are all one. If you can even begin to accept the mere possibility of this being so, then you will quickly understand that your personal energetic frequency, and my personal energetic frequency, and that of all the other beings in this world contribute towards our global energy. And we can all understand that raising that global energy is most definitely an undertaking worth striving for. Just think: would a gobal community whose overall energy were much higher than it currently is even consider tolerating things like war, hunger, child slavery, sexual exploitation, lack of water, or no access to education? Therefore it stands to reason that you could choose maintain your own personal energetic frequency in as good a place as possible. And that includes what you choose to do with it when you see suffering in others. In some ways, refraining from feeling bad in those situations, is related to what the Buddhists call compassionate detachment. One of the greatest things you can do to make the world a better place - and we can all do this - is to choose to maintain your own energetic frequency high. And that takes us to the concept of suffering being optional.

A child falls and scrapes its knee. The fright and pain cause him to cry. Mother comes running, hugs him, kisses the knee, and finds a cookie (and/or antiseptic cream and a band-aid). Miraculously the crying and fright stop. Part of the reason has to do with mother's safe and enveloping arms. Part of it is the distraction of the coveted cookie. And part of it is (although with a small child there is generally nothing 'conscious' about this) a choice that is made to pay more attention to the good thing (mother's arms, hug, kiss, cookie), than to the bad thing (falling and scraping the knee).

Let this small and simple analogy serve to help you make good choices when you are suffering. You may not have anyone around to comfort you (think Nelson Mandela at Robben Island for 27 years), you may not be getting a cookie (think Victor Frankl in Auschwitz during the Holocaust), but you always have a choice about how you think about what is happening to you. And therein lies freedom. It was actually Frankl who realized during his own suffering and famously stated: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. 

And the Buddha said: Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.


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