We are so completely identified with our mind-made stories that we are simply incapable of considering that it is possible not to suffer in the face of tragedy. Suggesting a way out to someone who is suffering comes across as rude and insensitive and frequently evokes that hackneyed phrase: “It is easier said than done.” I hear this cliché each time I offer any reality-based advice to someone who is going through a difficult time or is facing a challenge. It appears as if the person is so attached to his difficulty or sadness that he doesn’t want to look at any possible way out of the suffering. At such times, I imagine myself in the other person’s shoes to know if I would react likewise.
Though it is not possible to know exactly how I would feel or what I would do when in their situation, I am able to empathise as I feel their pain, their sense of helplessness and their belief that their sorrow is insurmountable.
Pain and pleasure
Most of us recognise that life derives its meaning from opposites, that pain and pleasure, sadness and happiness are inseparable. The problem is that while we grasp this essential polarity of life at the level of our rational, conscious mind, our reactions to life situations are mostly automatic and driven by deep-rooted social conditioning. I, like you and everyone else, have been conditioned to despise pain and seek pleasure. So much so that I am always trying to run away from my suffering. I was taught to view pain as something to be avoided at all costs rather than as a real possibility that is staring at me from every corner at all times. As a result, I did not grow up equipped with the wisdom necessary to deal with pain whenever it came knocking on my door, unannounced.
Life, though, has its own way of blessing us with the wisdom we need. Every so often, it shatters the illusion of control that we have come to take for granted and teaches us the value of humility and the power of conscious vulnerability. If there’s one life skill I would like all children to acquire, it would be to know and accept their vulnerability.
Our shared vulnerability
Yes, we are vulnerable, all of us—and not by choice. We are vulnerable because of our shared destiny of being born on this planet. As long as I deny this truth, I continue to suffer deeply and life seems terribly cruel. But when I accept my vulnerability as my intrinsic nature and also my fate, I begin to view the uncertainty and polarity of life as divine. I begin living in the ever present now, free from the shackles of my past and the imaginary fears of my future. And I am able to face traumatic life experiences without suffering. Not easy, I agree. But not impossible either.
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