The Path of Pain and Suffering

Most everyone on this planet seems to be walking the path of pain and suffering, so I am imagine this blog will strike a cord with a lot of you. This may be an over-generalization. There are still people who are not lost in the trappings of the mind, playing out old wounds and stories over and over again. I have the potential illusion that freedom from suffering is more likely to be found in indigenous tribes that have been "left behind" by the 21st century. Certainly there are good things with all this technology, but it really is a mixed bag.

Pain: Our Greatest Teacher
When I write about pain, I'm usually being very specific towards the mind. Typically, pain and suffering are what the mind does to entrap itself and to play out bad scenarios over and over again. This can be playing out a difficult moment in life--like when you lost a loved one, a job, or a relationship. This can also be incessant worry about the future. It becomes an on-going recording that tells us constantly that we're not safe and either will never be safe or only if we do such and such. Subsequently, we become reactive to our lives. We always look for what feels safe or what is a way out of pain. It becomes a big avoidance tendency in a lot of people, which manifests in lots of ways from closed hearts to drug use to working all the time. Although, some people use suffering as an inspiration and go right at it, but then, these people end up feeling like they're constantly fighting for their lives all the time.

Pain, as our greatest teacher, tells us when something is wrong. If you're getting sick a lot, your body is telling you that something is wrong. If you're emotionally upset a lot, your heart is telling you something is wrong. It's interesting what happens to you when you begin to look at your pain in life as an ally. Some people go so far as to take a traumatic event and turn it into a catalyst for their life's purpose or work. I'm thinking of Ishmael Beah's book A Long Way Gone as I write this. He was a child soldier in Africa--impressed into war, wired up on all kinds of drugs, and sent out to commit murder and atrocity. His story is about how he has healed from it, and it is a message of hope that other child-soldiers can be healed. Truly, what he's become through using the pain in his life is incredible.

When Pain Is No Longer Necessary
But the greater part of pain for most people in Western Society lives between the ears. It's in the constant chatter of the mind trying to control our lives with dictates of do this or do that, this is right or this is wrong. We suffer endlessly from these recorded messages that by and large have nothing to do with the present moment. But the philosophy of "No pain, no gain" is widespread in our culture. So we've also been deeply trained to accept that suffering is not only okay, but it's the way to get our fulfillment.

Those of you who read my blog regularly can already see the problems here. One is seeking fulfillment outside of yourself, and of course, the other is that you have to hurt to get what you want. Both of those are false. Yet even as people come to the spiritual path because of deep pain or lack of fulfillment in the material world, they take with them this idea that they have to suffer or earn their way on the spiritual path. Some people think they need to meditate for countless hours, journal endlessly, or practice a spiritual practice for years to achieve something. What in the world do you think you're going to achieve? The truth of your life is that you have everything you could ever need right here in this moment. Breathe. Breathe in this moment. You won't need anything else.

Spiritual Awakening and Your Next Step in Life
One of the things that I didn't fully realize and that I offer to you is that when you wake up, you're ready for the next step. You don't have to suffer or burn out old karma to do the purpose that you're here to do. When you awaken, you're already ready. Just let go of that need to earn anything or be awarded anything. No one can give you your purpose or tell you who you are. You already know all that. Now, I do think a lot of different tools like meditation are very helpful, but not in the space of self-work. They're important in the space of self-care, helping you to stay connected. Because, despite all of our best efforts, we can all get a little disconnected from time to time even after we wake up. So, we learn to stop and breathe again. Come back to this moment. Even as you're reading this, stop and breathe. Come back to this moment.

Suffering Never Cured Suffering
Just as the Martin Luther King, JR quote states that "hate cannot drive out hate," suffering cannot lead you to awakening. Long arduous vision quests or endless meditation retreats that make your knees ache aren't taking you anyway. If anything, they may be taking you away from the truth. But I'm not telling you to not do those things. To me they serve a sacred purpose of making you suffer until such time as you let go. And then you won't need them anymore.

I quoted on my Facebook page Zen master Daikaku who said that a meditation practice is unnecessary “if you know the fundamental reality." After that, meditate if you like to. It's more about preference, and as I said, we all get disconnected once and awhile; we get caught up again by the dream and illusion constantly spinning around us. That's okay, but meditation won't get you anything. In all honesty, it wasn't getting you anything before.

People and Their Pain
As Eckhart Tolle says, no one will take away your pain. You can have it as long as you want. I've seen plenty of people in my life holding on to pain and not reaching out for help even when they know it's right in front of them. That's okay. Their pain will continue to teach them about suffering. Their suffering won't cure their pain or stop it. If you have to go down the wrong road just to be sure that it's still the wrong road (dating the same type of jerk hoping for a different outcome to the relationship), then that road is more than open to you. This is the point when someone's ego runs in with a higher truth and says, but "there are no wrong roads, right?" Absolutely. But you have to be careful with what you're saying because that makes the Holocaust okay. I am always dramatic with these statements because higher truth encompasses everything.

I also believe that everyone knows their own truth, so you know when you're dating the wrong type of guy or gal again. You do. And no one else can know this for you. I certainly don't. I don't personally know even a fraction of the people who read this blog. How could I? But you know when you're doing something that isn't in your truth. You know when you're making yourself suffer, and as I said the greatest tool anyone has on this path is to just let go. When you do that, the suffering can go away. There will still be hard moments, difficult times, and days when your teeth ache from grief. But they will pass. You can let those difficulties pass, and when you do, you will be free of suffering and a whole new world will unfold before your eyes.


  1. Dear friend,

    comforting words.. pointed me to my next step..

    you mentioned Holocaust.. acts of mad people.. minds washed and acting as puppets.. i'm amazed how easy that is to do!! to control people who aren't themselves as natural beings.. amazed.

    i daily go through hard experiences of being surrounded by people who are puppets, at work.. i'm their target because i'm not like them.. just this reason. How do i deal with it? .. because i'm getting tired and sick of it..


  2. Hi Anna. It's a tough thing to step out of the madness, but you're not all of the way out. A part of you still wants approval and acceptance from the co-workers around you--otherwise, you wouldn't be so upset by it. Another part of you doesn't yet have the compassion for you to put up a stronger line of defense at the same time you have a deeper compassion for them--they really know not what they do.

    It's a mixed bag in this crazy world we call life, and we all do the best that we can with what we have. I hope you find your way towards voicing what is and is not okay for you with others as they react.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. Anna - I have noticed this myself at times, that people can have strong reactions to me. A friend tonight told me it's because I have some way of causing people to face themselves and the things they are in denial about. I don't do it on purpose, but it just happens. Or I am seriously empathic and I pick up on things in others that go beyond the outer layers of appearances - and sometimes I inadvertently challenge them in some way. It's not that I'm a sadist or like pushing buttons.

    I think there is value in recognizing the idea that we think need them to like us or have their approval in some way - and that is how we can end up identifying too much with thinking there is something wrong.

    "You know when you're making yourself suffer, and as I said the greatest tool anyone has on this path is to just let go. When you do that, the suffering can go away. There will still be hard moments, difficult times, and days when your teeth ache from grief. But they will pass. You can let those difficulties pass, and when you do, you will be free of suffering and a whole new world will unfold before your eyes."

    Thank you for these words. It is usually done with the mind in fear or worry. I often have a lot of guilt for things I didn't think I did too well at or some other social or interpersonal anxiety - because I am a bit different and perceived as a bit of a loner who dips in and out but never fully joins into a group dynamic or scene. Often those dynamics are somewhat unhealthy or flat out dysfunctional anyway. Not a lot gets by me and that can feel a bit confusing and alienating at times.

    I just have to keep following my soul and it seems to want to keep me open, thinking for myself, and not assimilating group dynamics and dependencies.

  4. i needed this i have been stuck on my past experiences especially regarding my family and just discovering how much suffering i have been causing myself. but going back to presence has allowed me to see that at this moment i am and i have accepted that my life was what it was and i am finally letting go of the stories i created around those issues that have me stuck and moving in circles in my life today. Funny thing i realized deep resentment for them that is dissipating with very little effort ! i am so grateful for this blog it is such a great gift.
    I have not gotten to my awakening but I truly appreciate where i am and this blog has been such a great light

    1. I am glad this blog post can help you let go of old family issues. Here's another blog post to help you better prepare the mind for awakening:

  5. QUOTE "the greatest tool anyone has on this path is to just let go. When you do that, the suffering can go away. There will still be hard moments, difficult times, and days when your teeth ache from grief. But they will pass. "

    Thank you Jim. IFor a while now I have been feeling as though I was still "suffering" flashes of grief/sense of loss/jealosy/resentment etc. regarding the last relationship breakup I went through (and the new realtionship she is now in), but at the same time, and for most of the time. I have only really felt compassion and love for both of them, and truly find myself wishing that they find what it is each of them is looking for ... I found it hard to reconcile the two "opposing" feelings until I read this article, and especially the summary I quoted.

    So now I "see" that the altruistic feelings I feel for them are my real state, and that the "mini-oush" feelings I am having are not actually "flashes of grief/sense of loss/jealosy/resentment etc." .. they are just twinges of pain reardning the loss ... and the flashes I imagined are hangovers of the old ego-reaction to the pains ... I guess it takes time for any pain to subside, but the attitude to the pain changes over time .. Now, just today, having read this post, I can begin to believe that I am seeing beyond my ego-relationship issues, and keep a focus on the good feelings I have for them both. It's a fact. I had become redundant as far as she is concerned. What she needed from me she had already had, and she was ready to move on (it's a pity it took an entire acrimonious year to come to that conclusion :) ) ... and he is definitely much closer to what she now needs in order for her talents and person to blossom ... May they progress and grow. My pain is transitory and I will grow on my own path.

    Where this particular issue is concerned, I won't waste any more energy on struggling with trying to work out where my negativity is coming from any longer .. I was mistaking pain for suffering .. but pain is impartial .. neither negative nor positive .. it just is ... I can handle that in the moment as it arises without struggle or effort now.

    Thank you for your guidance.

    Kevin Salt

    1. Well, Kevin, part of your work right now is to understand where your pain comes from. The vast majority of emotional pain is CHOSEN. It's just unconsciously chosen, and we've lost the ability to chose our emotions.

      In this work, we go to the unconscious to regain our power over our emotional choices and other unconscious decisions that influence how we think, feel, and sense.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Post a Comment