Whenever you absorb somebody else’s misery, pain and suffering, the moment you absorb it, it is transformed. The natural tendency is to avoid it; the natural tendency is to protect yourself against suffering. The natural tendency is to keep aloof, not to sympathise, not to empathise. People, even when they sympathise, sympathise only formally. They pay lip-service; they don’t mean it. If they really meant it, they could have helped the other person.
Human interactions can bring misery
And it happens a few times: there are people, if you meet them you feel an unburdening. When they are gone, you feel light, you feel flowing, you feel more vibrant, more alive – as if they have taken a great burden off your chest, as if they have poured some nectar into your being. You feel a dance left within your heart when they leave. You wait again and again for them to come to you; you seek their company, you enjoy it, because you are nourished by their presence.
The opposite kind of people also exist. If they meet you they leave you more burdened than you ever were. They leave you in a kind of despair, disgust. You feel you have been sucked, your energy is lower. They have taken something from your energy and they have not given anything to you.
If people avoid you, remember, they are not responsible. Something in you makes them avoid you. If people don’t want to meet you, if they find excuses to escape from you, remember, they are not responsible. You must be doing something negative to their energy.
If people seek you, if people become friendly immediately, if people feel a certain affinity , that means you must be knowingly or unknowingly helping them. Everybody is burdened with great misery, everybody is under great suffering, everybody’s heart is hurting.
Don’t avoid misery
We go on avoiding our own misery. If you feel miserable, you put on the radio or the tv and you become engaged. You start reading the newspaper so that you can forget your misery, or you go to the movies, or you go to your woman or your man. You keep yourself away from yourself, so that you need not see the wound, so that you need not look at how much it hurts within.
If you are feeling miserable, let it become a meditation. Sit silently, close the doors. First feel the misery with as much intensity as possible. Feel the hurt. If somebody has insulted you, feel thankful to him that he has given you an opportunity to feel a deep wound. He has opened a wound in you. The wound may be created by many many insults that you have suffered in your whole life; he may not be the cause of all the suffering, but he has triggered a process.
Just close your room, sit silently, with no anger for the person but with total awareness of the feeling that is arising in you – the hurt feeling that you have been rejected, that you have been insulted. And then you will be surprised that not only is this man there: all the men and all the women and all the people that have ever insulted you will start moving in your memory.
You will start not only remembering them, you will start reliving them. Feel the hurt, feel the pain, don’t avoid it.
Just be silent, utterly alone. Don’t even pray, because that again is a drug, you are becoming occupied, you escape from yourself.
The moment you accept the pain with no rejection anywhere, its energy and its quality changes. It is no longer pain. In fact one is simply surprised, one cannot believe it, it is so incredible! One cannot believe that suffering can be transformed into ecstasy, that pain can become joy.
Escape routes from misery
Have you watched? Whenever you feel nervous you immediately start smoking. It is a way to avoid nervousness; you become occupied with smoking. Really it is a regression. Smoking makes you again feel like a child – unworried, non-responsible – because smoking is nothing but a symbolic breast. The hot smoke going in simply takes you back to the days when you were feeding on the mother’s breast and the warm milk was going in; the nipple has now become the cigarette. The cigarette is a symbolic nipple.
Through regression you avoid the responsibilities and the pains of being adult. And that’s what goes on through many drugs. Modern man is drugged as never before, because modern man is living in great suffering. Without drugs it will be impossible to live in so much suffering. Those drugs create a barrier; they keep you drugged, they don’t allow you enough sensitivity to know your pain.
The first thing to do is close your doors and stop any kind of occupation – looking at the TV, listening to the radio, reading a book. Stop all occupation, because that too is a subtle drug. Just be silent, utterly alone. Don’t even pray, because that again is a drug, you are becoming occupied, you start talking to God, you start praying, you escape from yourself.
Experience the misery fully
Atisha is saying: Just be yourself. Whatsoever the pain of it and whatsoever the suffering of it, let it be so. First experience it in its total intensity. It will be difficult, it will be heart-rending. You may start crying like a child, you may start rolling on the ground in deep pain, your body may go through contortions. You may suddenly become aware that the pain is not only in the heart, it is all over the body – that it is aching all over, that it is painful all over, that your whole body is nothing but pain.
If you can experience it – this is of tremendous importance – then start absorbing it. Don’t throw it away. It is such a valuable energy, don’t throw it away. Absorb it, drink it, accept it, welcome it, feel grateful to it. And say to yourself, “This time I’m not going to avoid it, this time I’m not going to reject it, this time I’m not going to throw it away. This time I will drink it and receive it like a guest. This time I will digest it.”
It may take a few days for you to be able to digest it, but the day it happens, you have stumbled upon a door which will take you really far away. A new journey has started in your life, you are moving into a new kind of being – because immediately, the moment you accept the pain with no rejection anywhere, its energy and its quality changes. It is no longer pain. In fact one is simply surprised, one cannot believe it, it is so incredible. One cannot believe that suffering can be transformed into ecstasy, that pain can become joy.