It’s very interesting to try to be conscious, isn’t it? It’s more fun than not being conscious, I’ll tell you why, but it takes a while to figure it out.
Death and suffering
You and I are in training to be free: we’re in training to be present, open and embracing unto ourselves, not looking away, not denying, not closing our hearts because we can’t bear it. The statement, “I can’t bear it” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and you contract, the contraction starves you to death.
When you close your heart down to protect yourself from the suffering, you can’t stand it, because what happens is you close yourself off from being fed by the life situation and you’re unable to connect to your living spirit to feed from that spirit.
When people go to a funeral and feel the real grief of the situation, it brings people so close and gives them life experience. It opens areas where often they’ve deadened their minds and their hearts have been closed. That’s why trauma is so profound; it cuts through you.
When you’re in the presence of suffering and you contract, the contraction starves you to death
Pushing pain out
When you’re frightened, you contract, and when you contract, you go into your mind, which reiterates to you what you already know in order to feel safe again. It judges everyone else as a threat to your safety, creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ paradox. Inevitably, loneliness and hunger for company manifest throughout your own mind.
How then can we stay open to suffering? The answer to this question is to be aware of how we react to pain; at this point, the service of healing can begin. This acknowledgement softens us so that we don’t need to spend our energy protecting ourselves. A silent observing, listening part of yourself can observe the truth and provide guidance that is needed for us to truly be able to help.
Measuring our hurt
In the journey to help others who are suffering it is necessary for us to become aware of our past experiences dealing with suffering. When faced with unpleasant circumstances, it is the perception you hold in your mind that determines the extent to which you suffer. Extreme pain need not be associated with extreme suffering. It is the resistance to pain that accentuates suffering. When we are able to make room for the pain and allow it to come in without resistance, suffering begins to melt away. In fact, there is relief and release. This willingness to explore the parameters and dimensions of one’s own pain helps us to cease projecting our pain onto others and acknowledge the suffering that actually exists. It allows us to be with someone in their pain, to truly share and experience healing with each another.
Once you recognise this aspect of suffering, there’s nothing else to do but keep working on becoming more conscious; no big deal, nobody is asking you for anything. You’re just going to perpetuate your own misery and suffering along with everybody else’s if you don’t.
Extreme pain need not be associated with extreme suffering. It is the resistance to pain that accentuates suffering
What can I give?
When you meet someone who is suffering, what do you have to offer them? You could offer your empathy, “Oh, God, I just can’t imagine how bad that suffering must be.” That’s a good thing to offer, because they feel like someone is listening to them.
The other thing you can offer them is your joy, your presence, your ‘not getting caught in it all’. When you aren’t caught in their suffering, you understand the intensity of their experience while at the same time remaining present, not clinging to anything, just watching the phenomena of the universe change. Then your acts can truly be compassionate. That is where the root of compassion is.
Living the moment
It just seems that we touch moments where we feel deeply connected; then a moment later, it’s a new moment, and we want to cling to the experience. I invite you not to cling; I invite you to open up to the next moment and let it have its own richness. Nothing will kill the glow faster than clinging. So as you are out in the universe—driving cars, cooking supper, doing laundry and answering phone calls, I invite you to look at your life as the most remarkable curriculum.
When I was with Aldous Huxley, there were just a few words he kept using; one was “Extraordinary,” another was, “How curious!” and another was “How odd!” And I realised that everything in life is extraordinary if I’m really looking at it. It’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, yet somehow everything is still all so fresh. Just take your painful experiences and allow them to be grist for the mill of your awakening.