Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Does Suffering Play a Part in Spirituality?


Over the years I have watched the pendulum swing in my own life when it comes to suffering. Growing up Catholic, I assumed that suffering was part of being a truly spiritual person because that is what Jesus had done for our redemption.

As an adult, I decided after a long bout of depression and grief that suffering was something to be avoided, especially since so many beautiful saints and masters like Jesus have already suffered on our behalf. It only made sense to fully receive their gifts. For the most part, I have received the gift and live most of my own life with a minimum of suffering, balancing the many years I suffered greatly during an earlier part of my adult life.

Though I believe we often take on more suffering than is necessary, I also know sometimes we simply do suffer. When—a loved one dies, when someone you love is seriously ill, you are listening to someone tell their story about being tortured or oppressed; you spend time with someone who has Alzheimer's, lives in a hospital bed, or is an orphan without their family—I realized if I could not suffer with them at least a little bit, I was without compassion. And if I could not suffer in love (ache even a little for my limits, doubts and fears), I was without compassion for me. I needed the powerful love that comes from compassion for myself and others.

Mellowing with time, I'm more inclined to a Buddhist perspective—the clear and simple observation that suffering exists here on earth. The question I then chose to embrace was, "How do I choose to be with suffering?"

A man who had been physically abused by his father told me there was a point when he no longer felt the pain and only felt bliss. I'm not advocating physical abuse, but I was amazed to hear him tell me that as a child he was able to transform pain in such a significant way.

Some years later, I prepared for a ritual burial. That means I was buried in a shallow grave with a breathing tube as a spiritual quest for greater connection with the Divine. The dirt was extremely heavy, allowing me virtually no movement at all for hours. I was extremely hot because of the way the burial was being done, as well as feeling immensely constrained. There was only one thing to do if I wanted spiritual connection and that was to astral project. And so this uncomfortable quest, pushed me beyond my perceived limits into a profound state of sacred awareness.

Suffering happens, and depending upon your belief, through our own choices, by the nature of earth, or by Divine design. When it does occur, suffering can become an opportunity to transcend our limits. And it provides an opportunity for us to feel true loving compassion—and through that compassion to know what is most important in life as an individual and as a spiritual being.

I have discovered as my capacity to hold my suffering and the suffering of others in compassion increases, my ability to share in the passion and joy of others as well as my own life's blessings also grows. This has become an unexpected and welcome outcome of learning how to hold compassion for myself and others. Suffering seems to transcend, almost on its own, when it is held in full and complete love—leaving me in peace, and sometimes bliss.

We will be applying this concept of holding us all in compassion this Equinox, during a tele-meditation called The Tear. During this tele-meditation, we will be holding ourselves, Mother Earth and those we love and care about in feelings of compassion and passion—the tears of sorrow and the tears of joy. As we do so, we will invite the cleansing, healing, and life giving nature of water to nourish human life and Mother Earth. We hope you will join us in this simple, yet profound spiritual response to the challenges of living on earth, as together we transform the suffering of ourselves and others into joy and peace.

For the date and time, visit the calendar at http://www.NewDreamFoundation.com